Volunteering with the Special Olympics opened my eyes to those who were told they couldn’t play sports, but did so anyways. I met numerous basketball players with Cerebral Palsy who could not walk. Yet, they worked harder than anybody to wheel themselves down the court to defend their basket or take another shot. They did whatever they could to help their teammates succeed. Spending time with child cancer patients has inspired me as well. Although they are suffering, many of them run around with smiles on their faces like any other normal child. I have yet to meet one diseased child that isn’t a hopeful and brave fighter. My cross country coach has battled cancer throughout his life as well. Every single day he wakes up before school and runs as much as he can in spite of all the physical hardships he must face. Whenever I don’t feel like running, all I have to do is say to myself, “If Mr. Kirk can do it, then so can I.”
People like Mr. Kirk and the sick or disabled are who motivate me to keep training every day. I don’t have a disability to overcome. I don’t have a battle with cancer to fight. All I have to do is silence the part of my mind that says that I can’t run faster or longer or climb that hill or win that race. I know that if so many people in this world can overcome their obstacles, then I better be able to run 16 miles on any given hot mid-July day.]]>
When I’m running and my knee starts hurting, I literally start to laugh at myself.
A little knee pain…please.
A tiny bit of ankle throbbing…come off it.
A stomach ache…you’ve got to be kidding me.
If Ry can do what he can, so can I…not necessarily because I want to, but because I have to.
I have to laugh at my minor boo-boos and do what Ryan would do about it…make a joke, make someone else laugh, or smile, or high-five the next runner I pass…not necessarily because I have to,
but because I want to.
And then comes my beautiful Ma.
Momma I love you, and yes…I’m running for you too. You are my hero Ma, and I’ll run like hell for Ry, but I’m gonna do the same for you.
So to ALL the WARRIORS…I honestly, truly, and sincerely am running for you. I will address the upcoming roads and paths with the same vigor, tenacity, and smiles that you have shown life.
Let us keep spreading the miles and smiles…]]>
Last weekend, I raced my first Half ironman in Monticello, VA. For those unfamiliar with triathlon, a half ironman consists of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike, and a 13.1 mile half marathon. My training for the event went very well, I hit all of my training goals during my build. I accomplished track and swim workouts I previously would not have thought possible. Early season races went well and I set numerous personal records along the way. Physical component, check!
My goal for the half was to finish under 5 hours, which is roughly twice the amount of time as my previous longest triathlon. I needed to form a mental plan to deal with the pain for racing as hard as possible for that long. After a fair amount of Ironman triathlon video watching on youtube, I found the mantra that would be my plan. I decided to keep it simple and be “Relentlessly Positive” no matter what happened on race day. Around this same time, one of my teammates lost a close friend to cancer. Her name was Lydia and she was 8 years old. If anything gave me a reality check and put things in perspective, finding out that did it. I knew that racing in her honor would be the second part of my mental plan.
Three days before the race, I was riding back from a training ride when I went through a minor crash. It was nothing too serious, just some road rash and a sore knee. Definitely a suboptimal situation to be in, but hey we’re being relentlessly positive!
Race day started off smoothly, I scrawled “relentlessly positive” and “Lydia” on my left hand, racked my bike, prepped my transition zone, and headed off to body marking. I struggled into my wetsuit and walked down to the beach for the start of my wave. We lined up at the edge of the lake, the gun fired, we dove into the lake–and my plan promptly fell apart. As soon as my face hit the lake surface, my googles flooded. Within the first half mile of the swim I emptied my goggles six or seven times, again a decidedly suboptimal situation. I made the conscious effort to stay relentlessly positive, ignored the flooded goggles, exited the water, ran past some teammates who screamed that I was 3 minutes faster than my expected swim split. Onto the bike!
The first 28 mile lap of the bike went smoothly, my power output and average speed were exactly where I wanted them. The second lap was when the pain began to creep in. The flux of emotions I felt on the bike was unlike any training ride I had been on in the build up to this race. One moment I felt fantastic, the next I felt fine, a few minutes after that I would feel absolutely horrible, then it would repeat. Staying positive when going through such a roller coaster of emotions was very difficult, but I can tell it made all the difference. I rolled into transition right on schedule, donned my running shoes, and headed out onto the run course.
The first lap of the run was uneventful, other than it started to hurt more. I was running well, picking off most of the people who had passed me on the bike. The second lap hurt. A lot. I tried to stay positive by thinking about how if it hurts, I’m doing it correctly. I also thought about who I was racing for and what that meant. Just when I thought I was running on empty, the name sharpied next to my watch allowed me to dig a little bit deeper and push through the finish line. I ended up finishing in 4:57:30, taking 18th overall, and first in the collegiate division.
This entire experience reinforced the importance of staying positive and the importance of remembering ones mission despite adversity. I certainly expect to face lots of difficult situations this summer on the 4K, however being relentlessly positive will keep us riding forward to San Fran.
Cycle. Inspire. Unite.
I fast forward to today, and I can’t believe that there are only 4 weeks remaining before the start of our cross-country journey. It’s surreal. Incredible family, dedicated friends, and generous businesses have helped me raise over $5,000. I’ve put in hours on the Spinning machine and have tested my Cannondale with multiple rides, familiarizing myself with Baltimore City and County in a way I had never thought to do before. The bike feels great. I can’t wait.
Bring it on!!!!!!!]]>
I GRADUATE college in 20 days!
14 days after i graduate I begin my 4K journey!
I’ve got a lot challenges and experiences coming my way in the next few months and am so TERRIFIED and EXCITED for them…but mostly excited.]]>
The training I am currently doing is for lacrosse. I am finishing up my last season as a collegiate player, and I couldn’t have asked for a better team to be playing with. We are about to compete for the NCAA Division II Women’s Lacrosse National Title, and the road for us has been everything but easy. My teammates and I have pushed each other through countless training sessions in order to prepare us for the toughest competition we will face. My coaches have taught us to be happy with our wins, but not satisfied because there is always something we can improve on. They have played a huge part in improving our mental toughness, and have taught us to pick our heads up and move on after a tough loss. We train as if we are competing against the best athletes in the country. I wouldn’t have asked for a different experience in my collegiate career. I am so grateful for all of the teammates, coaches, professors, and mentors who inspire me to be the best that I can be. All of these things are going to help me in my mission to help others FIGHT cancer.
As I lace up my cleats on the lacrosse field, I think about my family who has supported me through everything. I think about how lucky I am to have the opportunity to play, and I give my best for those who can’t. For those who love lacrosse, but suffered certain issues that prevented them from being able to play. I think about my friend Landon, who lost his life in a car accident during our first semester of college. I think about Big Doug, who had a strong, three year battle against cancer, before he had to give his life to it. I think about how extremely lucky I am to have had the opportunity to be in college and play sports. All of the people who have inspired me to keep working hard, I want to thank you. Most of you probably don’t even know it, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without having you in my life. I feel lucky to be given the opportunity to help those affected by cancer. Every bit of this experience thus far has been rewarding. Through fundraising for the Ulman Cancer Fund, I have become so appreciative of people. “Thank you” does not express how thankful I am to all those who were so generous in their donations! I can’t wait to meet the rest of the people in the 4K For Cancer who are all working towards a common goal; to create a support system across the entire country to help those in the fight against cancer. All of the cancer patients who we encounter think that we are helping them, but really, they are helping us. We are running across the country to inspire those cancer patients to never give up, but really, they are inspiring us. To all of those affected by cancer, you WILL win the fight. And to all of those who have loved ones affected by cancer, never give up hope. That is why I am running, and why I think fundraising for this cause is so important.
Being fearless doesn’t mean you can’t have any fears. It means that you may have fears, but you are brave enough, and strong enough, to not let them ever stand in your way. Be Fearless.]]>
This past weekend there was a training ride in Centennial Park in Ellicott City, MD. Nearly 40 riders were there, many of them alumni, giving us an opportunity to ask away about previous 4K years and learn about their experiences. Hearing about their trips and seeing how close they had become to their teammates really made a mark on me. That ride also introduced me to the pre-ride ritual of “circling up”. Circling up is exactly as it sounds, but after forming a circle you link hands such that your left hand is supporting the hand of the person to your left and the you right hand is being supported by the person on your right. Next, you go around the circle saying who you are riding for on that particular day. Exactly as it should, you leave the circle with a purpose and ready for whatever is thrown your way. The ride was very enjoyable, exploring the farmland of Western Howard County, and getting an opportunity to talk to people on different teams while riding.
June 2nd is just around the corner and so is the start of this amazing trip!
As always – Cycle. Inspire. Unite.
I got my clip in shoes, pedals and bar tape today, can’t wait to make it look pretty! I’ll put up pictures soon!]]>
4k is totally part of that transition and makes me so happy to do something for fun and for someone other than myself. When I crossed the finish line at MAAC Championships for the last time in a Niagara uniform all I could think of was 4K and it kept me from falling apart. Its always the next step when it comes to running and you can’t get satisfied when you fufill one goal. If you’re a real runner you’ll always want more. After 4,000 miles what more is there? The answer is plenty you just have to find it.]]>
I have reached the required $4,500 fundraised for 4K For Cancer! Still have my own personal goal of fundraising $8,000, so don’t give up on me yet people! Possible last hoorah fundraiser/ buzz my head/ goodbye party in the works!
Truly lucky to have such supportive friends and family. I feel so blessed to be given this opportunity and that people have responded to my fundraising efforts with such open hearts and wallets. Everyone has a story of how they are affected by this life altering ailment and I am grateful for those who have shared their stories with me. Just wanted to again express my gratitude, thank you everyone!
Bike is almost all pimped out and I am starting to feel more confident that I will able to complete this challenge. Trying to put in a couple hundred more miles before she is road ready, just starting to get the hang of these clip-less pedals and shoes.
On another note I will be in Asheville, NC for the my birthday, June 11th, so feel free to inquire about my wish list aka last minute necessities for a summer of biking… i.e. water bottles, water bottle cages, riding socks, energy gels/ road snacks
Much love and gratitude!]]>
I ride for every biopsy. I ride for every malignant cell. I ride for every spinal tap or lumbar puncture. I ride for every bag of chemo hung. I ride for every dose of radiation. I ride for every.. single… breath. I ride for YOU. I ride for ME, I ride for the world to know that a disease of which is SO UNFAIR can be beat.. and even if it isn’t beaten I ride for the world to know that I care.. I care about your tears, I care about your family’s pain and sorrow, I care about the emotional and the physical. I care about the world we live in.. and I truly care about making the world a better place and giving hope to the people who live in it. Hope that there ARE good people around. Hope that diseases may set a schedule for you, and may cause you agony, but may also bring a family closer, may make you a little wiser, and may show you just how strong you are.
Cancer is a six letter word that no one wants to hear, especially when it is directed towards them or someone they know or may be close to. Cancer is a six letter word that immediately makes us all think of death and pain and suffering… We are here to show you all that it doesn’t always have to be that way.. and through the pain and the suffering we are HERE to make it just a little easier. We are here to show you that you don’t have to fight alone.. We will fight along side of you.. Every step, and every pedal of the way.
I am a Leukemia survivor of ten years and I want nothing more in my life than to give back for what I was given, my life. I am riding with Team San Francisco 2013 and we embark our journey on May 31st and will arrive to San Fran on August 10th, but that doesn’t mean we stop fighting there.. You see, this is only the beginning.. xo]]>
Thanks so much for all of the support you have already given me! The kind words and donations to help young adults fight cancer mean the world to me! Even though I have reached my original goal of $10,000, I still want to raise as much as I can! Every dollar donated helps the cause. If you came to my page planning to donate, please still do!
I am fighting back tears, as I write this first blog post. I just received a donation from Rachel, a friend of mine who was recently diagnosed. I saw her name, and I literally just lost my breath. You see, here I am, trying to be strong enough to run across America for her. Here I am, gathering the little bits of strength from my brain, heart, and body, trying to show the world that we can all make a difference. And there she is, pushing me forward.
“every day I see your posts about running for the warriors and its that which helps remind me that I am a warrior.”
I feel so blessed to be getting so much support from my friends, family, and even from strangers. But let me tell you, when a warrior donates, I just feel unstoppable. If they’re fighting CANCER, I can fight the urge to stop running. Today, Rachel donated. Yesterday, Charlotte donated. A few weeks ago, Ms. Zanaska donated. And then, there’s Sandy. Sandy’s always pushing me. Let me tell you a little about each of these people.
Charlotte is my running partner. I volunteer for Cancer to 5K, which trains cancer survivors to run 5K’s. I’m what’s known as a sherpa. Basically, I am a little energizer bunny!! Charlotte is a cancer survivor. She also happens to run very fast. We’re training twice a week, and we’re growing to be good friends. Her spirit inspires me. &I want to have a family like hers someday.
Ms. Zanaska was my ninth grade english teacher. Let’s just say that I started ninth grade with a really low grade. I had just changed schools, and I wasn’t used to the new system. Ms. Zanaska worked with me until I got an A! Unfortunately, Ms. Zanaska’s son had a tumor, and she had to leave in the middle of the year to take care of her son. We stayed in touch, and she has been one of the biggest driving forces I have had. Not only did she inspire me to become a better writer, she also pushes me to fight.
I’m not sure what type of cancer Sandy is fighting or what stage, but I know for a fact that her fight is made better because you are alongside her….you make me proud to have met you – continue the fight – at all cost- hope can never be lost!
And this brings me to Sandy… Let me be honest. It’s hard… It’s hard to write about her. It’s really hard, but I love writing about Sandy. She changed my life. So I am going to copy and paste something I wrote last semester for my Introduction to Fiction and Poetry Class.
I felt useless just sitting there, holding your hand. After years of doing everything I could to make you happy, the only thing that was left was for me to just be there, watching you struggle to breathe. You no longer looked like you. Not really. Your eyes were swollen, kind of like mine from all the crying. The difference was that your tears were now a desperate plea for someone to explain to you why this was happening. Your neck was so burned. They warned us when you started radiation after your surgery that it might hurt your skin. This was beyond hurt. It looked as if they had taken apart your neck and replaced it with pieces of burnt flesh. What hurt the most, as I sat there looking at you, was knowing that the little bumps on your legs, arms, chest, and head were the ones taking you from me.
The nurse said that the best thing I could do was distract you. Apparently, memories help patients forget the agony they’re in. It was as if I could separate your mind from your body with my words. If only you could do that to me too, that way my throat wouldn’t have closed up every time I tried to talk to you.
In that last week of January, I had known that it was time. You called me a few days before telling me you could barely breathe, and I had to rush over to help you. Your breathing got worse each day. You couldn’t get up anymore. I had to pick you up and carry you even to the bathroom. At first, when the cancer spread to your legs, I had carried you on my back everywhere we went. It was fun though. I’d make you laugh as I jumped down each stair to the lobby of the hospital. Your laugh was what kept me going everyday. It would come out of your stomach as you giggled, and your eyes would close just a little because your cheeks would go up so much when you smiled. People always looked at us. Maybe they wondered why an eighteen year old like me was laughing so much with an eleven year old in the hospital. Age didn’t matter. All that mattered was that we were together: two warriors fighting your cancer.
Now, it was time for me to be strong for you. One of my friends told me, as I cried in the bathroom of my school one day, that I had always been the one to tell you to keep fighting. I always used to say, “You are my warrior.” Maybe that was why you kept fighting this. It was as if you just didn’t want to go. My friend said that maybe if I was the one to tell you that it was ok to stop fighting, you’d listen. I just could not bring myself to give you permission to go, when I, myself, wasn’t ready to lose you.
“Hey Sandy. Do you remember that time we went to butterfly world?”
You opened your eyes and nodded. You had been in remission, and your hair was growing back. It had made me so happy to see you chasing after all the butterflies. You found a white one on the ground. It had a broken wing and couldn’t fly. You grabbed it and held it for a while. Even butterflies felt the life you transmitted with your touch. The butterfly flew away. My angel, you fixed her.
Sitting next to you took all my energy, so I took the spot I had always taken on your bed. I moved underneath the tubes with the oxygen and cuddled right next to you. I could see that on your hand was the bracelet that matched mine. You had gone shopping on one of those Make-A-Wish trips, and one day, when we were waiting for your appointment in radiation, you pulled out half a heart that said “Big Sister.” You had the other half “Little Sister.” I never took it off. I wore it every day, hoping that this little piece of metal would keep you with me. It always reminded me of all the things people thought we were. One time, when we went to Chuck-E-Cheese, a little girl with beautiful blue eyes had come up to me as you played in the arcade. She said, “Your daughter is beautiful.” I still don’t think I look old enough to be a mom, but I know in my heart that you were my daughter. My friends knew you were my best friend. After all, I would ditch them on Friday and Saturday nights to go visit you in the hospital. Thinking back, I wouldn’t exactly say that you were my friend, my daughter, or my sister. You and I extended beyond anything this world has ever seen. It’s like we were soul mates.
Now, my soul mate was suffering, struggling to stay here with me. “You can’t let the love hide in the darkness,” you had said to me a few months before. We were hanging out on your hospital bed, singing Nikki Minaj and eating sushi. I was telling you about some boy I liked, and you were telling me about the boy you loved. His name was Christian. Your mom used to babysit him, so you’d always be with him. You told me that one day you told him you loved him. You even gave him a pop kiss. It was a secret, though, and I laughed at the idea that you had a better love life than me, even if you were seven years younger. Maybe it’s because cancer is a disease that makes people erase those limits. Maybe that’s why your love was so strong, your friendship so powerful, and your will to live so invincible. You can’t let the love hide in the darkness. That’s what cancer taught us.
My time to prove it to you was running out. I couldn’t let you go without you knowing how much I loved you. Memories flooded my mind, and soon, there weren’t enough words to tell you our story. They say life flashes before your eyes when you’re about to die. You and I were reliving our moments together. You nodded every time I brought to the light a memory. Before, going to the movies, dancing at concerts, and baking in my kitchen had been ways to encourage you to keep going. Now, these things were becoming the strongest morphine. I could see your face relax, as I continued telling you our story. I could see the pain go away. My pain only increased. I thought back to the day I met you. It was at the Pizza Party the Pre-Med club of my school hosted. One hundred student volunteers, thirty patients, and I found you. Standing before a crowd in your purple hat, you told jokes. We were the ones that were supposed to make you happy, but you just stood there, pulling me towards you with your wonderful smile. After that day, I could never stay away. When I ran out of words to say, I realized you were spending more time unconscious than conscious now. You hadn’t responded to my words for a few minutes, and I was so scared that you’d go without knowing. You had to know, so I sang like the many times we sang together in my car. I sang our song. “Next to You” by Chris Brown.
“You got that smile… That only heaven can make.. I pray to God everyday.. That you keep that smile…”
You hummed. You hummed along as my lips pronounced the lyrics. You came back.
“ One day when the sky is falling, I’ll be standing right next to you..”
I knew then that my friend had been right. You were going to keep fighting. You always had plans. You couldn’t go without making sure your family would be ok. You wouldn’t leave me here, unless you were sure that I’d do all the things we had plan. You wouldn’t leave unless you were sure. I caressed your arm for hours, growing weaker. You had been strong for six years in your battle against cancer, and I, perfectly healthy, felt weak when I had to pretend to be strong for you. I couldn’t bare to see you suffer like this anymore. My hands shook, and I cried. I cried by your bedside while your family stepped out of the room. They knew this good bye would never be easy. I wept for you. I wept for the warrior who fought so hard. I wept for the angel whose wings were spreading. I wept.
You didn’t answer.
“Sandykins.. baby wake up..”
You opened your eyes.
“Sandy, it’s ok to stop fighting now. You’ve fought so hard. I am so proud of you. I’ll take care of your family here ok? Your sister is going to be ok, and so is your mommy. I promise.”
You closed your eyes.
“Sandy. I’m going to go now. I want you to close your eyes and have the sweetest of dreams. Promise me you’ll have sweet dreams?”
I kissed your forehead, and I walked towards the door. I needed to let you go.
“I love you Sandy.”
It’s been months since the day you died. I still remember getting the phone call an hour after I left your room. The nurse said that it takes around an hour for the body to shut down in cases like yours. When she told me that, she didn’t understand why I smiled. I knew you would listen. You always had.
At your funeral, your family told me that you called out my name with your last breath. Your mom still asks me why I think you were calling for me. At first, I didn’t know why. We had promised to always be next to each other, but I could not believe that my name was the last thing you said. Now, I understand. When you promised me to have sweet dreams, you knew I was talking about heaven. You knew, and that’s why you were calling for me. You were calling me to tell me that that was exactly what you were about to do, just like you always yelled my name when you were going to show me something extraordinary.
It’s hard to miss you so much. Some days, I lay down outside in the middle of the night and look at the stars. I relive the moment when I prayed for the first time in my life. We were in the Black Eyed Peas concert. Everyone had taken out their cell phones, and the stadium looked like a starry night. You were so concentrated on the music on stage that it took you a while to realize what was happening. Your arms were wrapped around my neck, as I held you up so you could see the stage. I felt you gasp when you turned and saw all the lights. I could feel this magic going through your body, as if there was nothing in the world you wanted more than to stay there forever. I looked up at the sky that night and I begged God to let me stay there, right next to you.
I know. That’s all that matters.
So this is why I am running.
Will you join the fight?
“You can’t let the love hide in the darkness.”
~Sandy Vanessa Ruiz
I wake up at 7 am and force my eyes to stay open. I fall out of bed still not quite awake and check the weather. Rain is a good sign. It means go back to bed, though I know this summer it will be my worst nightmare. I dress for the weather grab my headphones and I am out the door.
Still not fully awake I stumble and get started on a morning run. I go different places and change the distance everyday. Some days I’m limited for time, but others I have the freedom to run for forever.
The first mile is down and I think to myself ok that’s it, time for breakfast. But then I tell myself, no I’m in training. I want this. I want to be better! I continue and finish out my run as intended. Breakfast time!
I quickly get ready and I’m off to class in a hurry. Being a full time student is not always fun. As class drones on I plan out where I will be riding this afternoon after lunch. I never ride the same track and again I change the distance.
I feel like I haven’t eaten in days when in reality it has been about 4 hours. My eating habits have changed so much in the last couple of months.
It is lunch time and I head to the campus dining hall to meet my friends and have whatever they are serving for the day. I fill myself and my stomach tells me I need a rest but I don’t have much time. I have to go out and ride.
I walk back to my house and prepare myself to go out for a while. I have to set an alarm so I do not stay out too long. I tend to get lost while I’m out there and do not realize how long I bike for.
I hop on my bike and get a freeing feeling. Off I go and time flies. I see a road sign indicating I’ve riding 10 miles. Whoo that was quick. Then 20. After that 20 mile mark i feel as if I have definitely gone another 10. Nope the next sign indicates I’ve gone 2 miles since the last sign. Ugh, time to start making my way back home. All I’m thinking about is food and I have the urge to drink a gallon of water. The wind is terrible on the way back and it is so hard to move. The cars beside me are flying by making me feel like I’m crawling.
I make it back! Now time to hit the gym for some weight training. Arms. Abs. Legs.
Rush back to my house for a quick shower, dinner and then class again.
Afternoons fly by for me. By the time I get out of class, the last thing I want to think about is homework or work. But I have to get everything done.
Finally I look at the clock and it is 11pm. Time for bed, my favorite time of the day!
On Saturday April 13th I spend a few hours in front of Trader Joes of Annapolis and Bike Doctor of Annapolis. I had my table, information boards and my 4K map! I also had a chalk board set up which I had written ” This summer I’m going to BIKE across the country to help young adults with cancer and to please donate. This caught many peoples attention. I talked about The Ulman Fund for young Adults, 4K for cancer, and what it all means to me. I made so many connections today. It feels good to help those who need help, and talk with those who appreciate and are excited by this amazing journey.
If I met you on Saturday, Thanks for taking the time to make a donation and talk with me.
Follow my blog all summer long, I’ll have pictures, videos and maps of the ride!
Cycle. Inspire. Unite.
As you know I will be biking across America this summer for the Ulman Cancer Fund. I will use this blog to record my journey, talk about the people I meet along the way, and share my experiences.
A few months ago my friend Joanna Freeman sent me an email asking for me to contribute to her bike ride across America to help young adults fighting cancer. She knew that my family has felt a great loss from the disease since I lost my father freshman year and that I would be willing to help her. Her mother is going through treatment currently with a very good prognosis. I saw the email and immediately called her up to talk to her about the ride. Within about five minutes I promised her I would sign up for the ride with her to Portland, Oregon.
After talking with the people at the Ulman Cancer Fund, I decided I wanted to take a more active role in the ride. They asked me to apply for the position of ride co-director. In January I interviewed and was asked to fill the role. Within a few weeks I found out my co-director was Dan Gray. We immediately started strategizing, scheming, and planning. As of now our leadership team is fully functional and crushing their responsibilities. We have awesome leg leaders to help plan the route and find us hosts; a passionate service coordinator to find us service events along the way; two mechanics that are in the process of becoming highly trained; and a PR coordinator that will get us in every newspaper, tv show, and media outlet along the way.
Now we are just counting down the days until the ride starts on June 2nd. (Un)fortunately out here in Colorado we’ve been getting a massive amount of snow, which means I havent been able to ride my bike. I have been skiing though. I’m moving back to Connecticut next week, which means I can finally hop on my road bike and get the miles in to train for the ride. But between skiing and my lifting regiment I will hopefully still have strength to put in a lot of training miles in a short period of time.
I am still fundraising, so please consider making a contribution to my ride.
I also wanted to invite those of you who have donated to share your story and connection to cancer with me. Every morning before setting off on our bikes, each 4k rider dedicates that day to someone who has been affected by cancer. When we are fighting through the pain of a difficult climb or a strong headwind, we can channel that individual’s strength and battle through it. Nothing is harder then chemo, nothing is more challenging then cancer- every story we hear will be motivation for the following day. We are riding for the survivors, for the fighters, and for everyone affected by cancer. We write their names on our calves, motivating us so that one day our loved ones won’t have to suffer and so no one feels like they are facing this alone. If you or someone you know has been affected by cancer, i would love to dedicate a day of riding to them. So please tell me your story, share their battle, and inspire me as well as my teammates to fight and pedal through every challenge and road bump we face this summer.
One story that motivates me is that of my grandfather (my pop), who on 3-28-2013 lost his battle to cancer. He may not be with us any more but he will be with me every day this summer as I’m riding, and it is his story that will be just one of the things that drives me and keeps me going this summer.
For more on my ride, my training, and my thoughts on cycling in general I started my own blog- http://frombaltimore2seattle4k.tumblr.com/
I’m going to continue to post there up until the ride and then i promise to post more here as well!
To share your story with me, dedicate a day to someone, or if you want to ask me something my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org]]>
Thank you again to everyone who has donated and passed my support letter on to others! The generosity that you all have shown has continuously blown me away. From recent graduates and med school students to friends and family to friends of those friends and family on a budget, thank you for joining my team to inspire hope toward the eradication of cancer!
Yesterday we reached the 1/3 mark of my $7000 goal! That would have been enough for me to have a great day, but it didn’t stop there. I also received a call that my bike was ready to be picked up! I don’t think there’s a better way to celebrate being at the 1/3 mark than to pick it up and start training today! I’ve been doing endurance training but it’ll be good to finally be on the bike that I will call home this summer!
Thank you again to you all!
PS–check out (and feel free to pass on) the article my hometown regional newspaper wrote about me online here: http://www.thereminder.com/localnews/eastlongmeadow/4kforcancer/. How cool is that??]]>
I have successfully clocked my first 100 miles on the new bike and I am looking forward to putting another 2,400 miles (at least) before our group’s journey in June.
I am writing about my training rides and other biking experiences on my personal blog. This is the link - http://tinyurl.com/alak-blog
You can write to me directly at email@example.com with any questions or comments.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far in this crazy opportunity!
I’m getting more and more excited about this bike ride across country and I am very close to hitting my 2nd big milestone of $2,000! Once I reach this goal, my bike will be shipped out and I can begin the actual training!!
I will have a few dates announced shortly for fundraising events, so check back soon!
How to celebrate achieving this milestone? It only seems fitting to go for a ride!
Despite it being 39 degrees, cloudy, and a little gusty; a triathlon teammate and I set out for the saturday long ride. After navigating through the traffic of College Park, we made it to some quieter roads and the ride began in earnest. Despite probably the strongest headwinds I’ve ever ridden in, we averaged close to 20 mph for the first 30 miles of the ride. Slowing down a bit, we cycled past an abandoned mental hospital and continued on despite losing feeling in our feet and hands. Arriving back on College Park, two-and-a-half hours later, we covered 46.8 miles and I finally, after a month of debate, decided upon a name for my bike: Charlotte (the Cannondale).
Training is now in full swing and I am getting moreand more excited for the day that we depart for San Fran. I absolutely can’t wait!
Cycle. Inspire. Unite.
Welcome to my first blog post! As many of you know (and you can read all about it on my fundraising page) I have elected to participate in the 4K in honor of my mommy who currently is a breast cancer survivor! She had a bilateral mastectomy on December 26th and is recovering slowly but surely.
I picked team Portland because my ambitious roommate, Mary Natoli, is also on that team. So far, it’s been a blast doing this together (and much easier). She will be appearing a lot in my blog as we do everything together and she was the one who inspired me to join the 4K in the first place.
So my semester at UMD began about 10 days ago and thus so did my 4K training schedule. I’ve made a rough day to day guide: unless otherwise stated, I’ve been sticking to it pretty well
Monday: high intensity cardio or cycling
Tuesday: Body Pump (a 60 minute weight training class that works every major muscle group and is great, especially for females)
Thursday: Body Pump
Saturday: Road Cycling
Sunday: Rest/easy jog/yoga.
Here are some highlights of the past several days:
Friday Jan 25th
I did a blitz 30 minute stationary bike workout. Afterward, Mary and I went to the 4K kickoff party in Baltimore. Unfortunately it was snowing so we elected to take the Marc train there. On the way back, Mary’s mom drove us to BWI and we took a bus back to College Park. It was quite the journey. At the kick off, we met a ton of people that are going to be on team Portland as well as several members from other teams. They had a ton of food, including mini Chipotle burritos! The 4K taff held a very comprehensive Q & A session where 4K alum answered frequently asked questions. I learned that I had a ton of training to do. If there was one theme for the night: it was train, train, train.
Saturday Jan 26th
In an attempt to fundraise, it was my idea to cohost a Tapas party with Mary at our apartment. We spent the whole day cooking and it was lots of work. I was worried to death that no one would show up and it’d all be for nothing but I was completely wrong. To my surprise, around 30 people showed and we made $314. We split the donations 50/50 so that we each added $157 to our funds. Some of my friends are still making donations and hand me money when I see them in passing. I’m overwhelmed at how supportive everyone has been.
The menu included: Foccacia, Bruchetta, Cheese and Crackers, Sausage, Chicken nuggets, Spinach and Artichoke dip, Fries, Deviled Eggs, Cake Pops, A Chocolate Fountain with Strawberries, and Nutella Fudge. Pretty classy for some college kids
Sunday Jan 27th
Mary and I went on our first “road cycle”. This means, we got out our actual bikes and hit the street. Now, over winter break, Mary planned ~18 local bike trips for us to do ranging from 20 to 100 miles. We are planning to do 1 trip per weekend until we leave on June 2nd for Portland. She did this using trails.com. Ok, well…so I was under the impression that I could perhaps download an app that would give me turn by turn GPS directions. No, NOT THE CASE! Our first ride was supposed to be an easy scenic 20 miler in beautiful Annapolis, MD. On Sunday morning when we finally looked up the trail, this is what we got:
Ok so our map was a jigsaw puzzle and there was no app for turn by turn GPS directions but we’re both smart girls right? So we were up for the challenge…until we got there. It was maybe 30 degrees. Also once we started, we realized some of the roads on this map DON’T EXIST. The map had us turning onto “streets” that were actually brick walls. We kept having to stop and look at an actual physical paper map. Who does that anymore?? Ugh so frustrating.
So, then we decided to bike aimlessly around Annapolis until we had completed 20 miles. I have an app on my iPhone called map my tracks. It’s great, you should get it. It uses GPS to map you as you bike or run. Then it shows you your path, mileage, speed, etc when you’re all done. So I turned on my app. But…there was way too much foot traffic and ice So…we found a 1.25 mile loop around the Navy stadium back by where be parked. I think we went around about 12 times until we accumulated enough mileage to call the trip successful. In total, we did 19.5 miles.
I had to send a picture of the bike rack I mounted on my car to my dad because I had no earthly clue if I had done it right.
Tuesday January 29th
I picked up my brand new Cannondale racing bike from Princeton Sports! Princeton Sports was AWESOME! I am completely new to cycling and need just about all the help I can get. While I was there, I decided to go ahead and buy some biking shoes as well as clipless pedals. (Everyone’s going to have them, so peer pressure, right?) The shop installed them right on the spot for free. Then, they spent about an hour teaching me how to use them. First they put my bike into a stationary trainer and made me clip in and out of the pedals about 1 million times until I got the hang of it. Next, they took me outside and I had to do it for real. After about 5 seconds of trying, I realized that I needed my helmet. It was really different than using regular pedals. I nearly fell at least 10 times trying to clip in while in motion. This…to say the least was kind of embarrassing. It’s pretty difficult to get the hang of it. The only thing I can compare it to is ski bindings…except you have to snap in while the bike is in motion and it totally throws off your balance! Unclipping to stop is even harder. The guy that was helping me caught me by my sleeves at least 7 times while I was trying to unclip to stop. But we laughed it off. I left the store kind of terrified and I have yet to practice on my own but I’m eager to do so…at some point…and with lots of help…if you’re an expert at this, any advise is welcome!
I totally blew off going to body pump once I got home from Princeton Sports. Instead, I tried out my new bike and rode all around campus for about 45 minutes. But, I cheated and wore my running shoes…instead of practicing with the clipless pedals. Whoops.
More to come about my training endeavors. Hopefully, I won’t have to blog about any ER visits!]]>
Thank you to all of my family and friends (and friends I just haven’t met yet) for supporting me!]]>
Training miles: 505.93
It’s been a while since the last post, which isn’t that surprising since I’ve laid off the fundraising the past few weeks. My lab had a few weeks to pull together a compound database for various ligands of serotonin and GABA-A receptors. Thankfully, that project was handed off to another member of the lab, leaving me the last week to start drafting my (long overdue) paper. I’ve got a rough draft of the introduction, an even rougher draft of the methods section, and still have to bug my professor about how to interpret my data to get my results (a pretty vital point). There’s a chance I’ll have a draft to submit for review by spring break, sooner if I don’t have to make drastic changes to my findings. If I could go into this ride with a publication under my belt (highly dependent on the article turnaround for reviewing), that would be one of the few things that could make this ride better. There are hints that my professor will get his Cheminformatics class to do my data collection for me, so I can focus on background research on the next project and not make the same screw-ups I made this past year. And classes are starting, which look to be pretty interesting this semester (Bioinformatics and Molecular Mechanisms of Developmental Genetics)
I passed 500 training miles this morning. It’s a good habit I’ve started; I bike 11-12 miles each morning while watching last night’s Daily Show and Colbert Report (I’m able to muddle by on Monday mornings). Add the daily biking to daily outings to the gym at Rutgers, and it looks like I’ll be in good shape for the summer. The cable for the rear-wheel speedometer snapped a few weeks back, so I moved the wireless front-wheel sensor and computer to the back. It’s not too inconvenient, since I only check the computer at the start and end of my training rides. I’ll probably keep my current bike as a trainer bike, and my 4K bike will be my outdoor bike when the weather becomes amenable to road biking. It’s already a bear to change out the trainer tire for a road tire; I don’t want to set up the front-wheel computer as well for every road ride. It does look like I’ll have to go back on my plan to log 4000 training miles by June. I don’t like doing it, but considering how long it took to get my first 500, I can maybe make it to a still-respectable 2000 miles. There will be longer rides when the weather warms up.
I talked to Stephen Hersey not too long after my last post. We discussed areas where 4K’s sponsorship program could improve, and there were quite a few areas that needed help. It’s a relatively new effort, so hopefully a few people have grabbed a few sponsorships on their own. In the future, riders will be better equipped to target potential sponsors and make a better pitch to them. Of course, I’m not the best person to talk to about ideas on how to improve sponsorship efforts. I did like that Stephen called to discuss it, showing that they were concerned about the points I had raised.
As for myself, I’ve suspended my sponsorship search indefinitely. I got a shirt and water bottle at the open house, and business cards should get here next week. I’ll see what I can do to get attention on campus (not an easy feat for me) using those. I had considered the idea of a raffle, but wasn’t sure about a physical location for it. There’s actually a chance my local bike shop could provide a physical location and collection spot. I’ll reach out to a family friend with connections to local businesses, see if they could donate goods or services to raffle. It’s no Cavs merchandise, but it has potential. There’s also the garage sale, donations for which are steadily trickling in. I’ll contact James next week, see if his office is out of the weeds and willing to discuss dates for a fundraising breakfast.
Hopefully I’ll be past the $2000 mark by the next post. I’ll see what happens when the cards come in.]]>
Through the next five months I will keep you updated on my fundraising, training and anything 4K related!
Thank you for the support!]]>
So in order to make donations a little easier I want to invite my supporters to donate by the mile. Over the summer I will run 390 miles! So if you want to donate only one cent per mile then its only $3.90 (unfortunately the minimum donation is $5…. awkward). So two cents a mile??
Or I’ve thought of other ways to support my fundraising efforts:
You could donate to sponsor the miles your state is wide. Example: Tony wants to donate but is unsure about how much. He is from Alabama (which is 210 miles wide) so he chose to give $10.50 so that he pays 5 cents for every mile my team runs while in his home state. GREAT IDEA! *obviously we are only running through some of the states – but this way your donation is more personal
So here’s the stats:
Alabama: 210 miles
Alaska: 2,350 miles
Arizona: 337 miles
Arkansas: 276 miles
California: 250 miles
Colorado: 380 miles
Connecticut: 110 miles
Delaware: 30 miles
Florida: 160 miles
Georgia: 230 miles
Hawaii: 92 miles (largest island)
Idaho: 305 miles
Illinois: 210 miles
Indiana: 140 miles
Iowa: 310 miles
Kansas: 400 miles
Kentucky: 380 miles
Louisiana: 130 miles
Maine: 190 miles
Maryland: 250 miles
Massachusetts: 190 miles
Michigan: 240 miles
Minnesota: 360 miles
Mississippi: 170 miles
Missouri: 240 miles
Montana: 559 miles
Nebraska: 430 miles
Nevada: 320 miles
New Hampshire: 70 miles
New Jersey: 70 miles
New Mexico: 343 miles
New York: 330 miles
North Carolina: 500 miles
North Dakota: 340 miles
Ohio: 220 miles
Oklahoma: 478 miles
Oregon: 360 miles
Pennsylvania: 283 miles
Rhode Island: 30 miles
South Carolina: 200 miles
South Dakota: 380 miles
Tennessee: 440 miles
Texas: 790 miles
Utah: 270 miles
Vermont: 80 miles
Virginia: 430 miles
Washington: 360 miles
West Virginia: 130 miles
Wisconsin: 260 miles
Wyoming: 360 miles
* data was taken from http://www.netstate.com/index.html]]>
In an effort to make my supporters feel like they are more connected to my trip I’d like to dedicate a day of my ride to one of their loved ones that has been affected by cancer. So, with a donation of only a penny for every mile that I will bike (for a total of $40 donation), you can choose one of my riding days to dedicate to someone in your life. After making your donation, email the name of the person and the riding day you would like to dedicate (between June 2nd and August 10th) to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be sure to share each dedication on this blog during the ride.
Cycle. Inspire. Unite.
Training has begun and I’ve done over 220 miles of training so far. If you want to track my progress you can like my Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/NickLazzaro4kForCancer . This is also where I’ll be posting a lot about my biking journey.
Also, don’t forget that I am hoping to dedicate each day of biking (70 days total) to individuals who have battled or are currently battling cancer. If you would like to dedicated a day for somebody please contact me personally at my email: NickL2020@aol.com
Thanks again everybody!]]>
Training miles: 236.38
The bike trainer has been a big help the past few weeks. Cold weather cancelled the last few group rides with Action Wheels, so I’ve started putting in ~10 miles each morning. While the lack of moving air leaves me with a sweat-soaked towel by the end of the ride, I can put in my miles in just gym shorts, instead of several layers of thermal clothes. TV pickings have been slim so far; I’m caught up with any shows I currently watch, and a multi-day binge got me caught up on Game of Thrones. During rides, I’ve been watching An Idiot Abroad to see how well my friend James resembles Karl Pilkington (the resemblance is uncanny, including the bemused looks both have, and how my other friend, Mike, and I would send James all over the world just to see how uncomfortable he gets). Now that the Christmas break is over and regular schedules are returning, I’ll have more selection for my morning rides.
4K sent out info on business sponsorship shortly before New Years. It’s a good option, and I’m exploring possible sponsors to prop up my sporadic individual donations. I’m getting the feeling that 4K expects most of the funds to come from small, individual donations as opposed to larger donations from corporate sponsors. We’re given descriptions of the sponsorship levels. Companies want to know what, exactly, you and 4K can do to promote their brand, and 4K hasn’t said they would be willing to do much besides put logos on the website/water bottles/jerseys/support vans. There’s some local press during the ride and for individual riders, which could help local vendors if you could plug them in a local paper’s puff piece. For larger companies that could benefit from exposure across the country, (in this case sports nutrition companies like Power Bar and Clif Bar) you need to describe how the company’s products will be distributed. 4K has been silent so far on this issue, which, considering how much these companies like to sponsor athletic events, seems like something 4K should address. Any promotion for companies is in the hands of riders, which is fine so long as 4K lays out ground rules about what it and its riders can and cannot do, as fundraising arms of a nonprofit.
I’ve written up a sponsorship proposal, and have sent it out to a few friends for possible sponsors and advice. The fundraising breakfast at James’ office is still in planning, coin drops will have to wait until I get 4K gear and warmer weather, and April’s group yard sale is slowly gathering participants. I’ll be heading back in to Rutgers tomorrow, and also getting info about doing a pretzel sale at school.]]>
In the coming weeks and months, I plan to post frequent updates to the blog here about my efforts both to support the Ulman Fund, and to prepare for the 4K this summer. Already, quite a few individuals have expressed an interest in sharing how their life has been affected both by cancer diagnoses and treatments, and I look forward to including many of their personal stories here. If this is something that you would be interested in, please do let me know (my email is: email@example.com and I’ll also regularly be checking comments to the blog here). I would be honored to hear your perspective, and, of course, include your experience on the blog here, if you would like me to do so. I also plan to post some personal anecdotes of my own; related both to my decision to ride my bicycle across the country and my motivations and initial inspiration to support the Ulman Fund’s efforts. I hope readers of this blog will find such updates interesting, inspiring, and exciting, and also feel free to let me know if my posts start to ramble too much, or if there’s another topic you might like me to address in future blog posts.]]>
I strapped on my helmet today for my first outdoor training day of many and despite the harsh winter weather here in upstate New York I would not be stopped! With temperatures in the teens and a wind chill that racked down into the single digits this ride was a tough start… but it can only get better! The thoughts of all the supporters behind me helped push me through the ride and I’m pumped to keep training through the weeks.
Thank you again to all of those who have shown your support and I can’t wait to update you all again on my progress through the weeks!
Thank you for your support and love,
Evan Matthew King]]>
I’ve raised $2000 so far and I’ll be heading to Princeton Sports to pick up my brand-new Cannondale this weekend. SO EXCITED!!!!]]>
The following is the link to the Google Map for the first leg of the ride. Google only allows 25 destinations at a time, so parts 2 and 3 will be posted as my fundraising totals increase.
First of all, merry Christmas. These past few days consisted of cooking, watching all 4 seasons of Misfits (kind of glad the seasons have only 8 episodes, otherwise I’d still be watching), and fretting about fundraising. Thanks to family, friends, and Santa I’ve hit the first milestone of $1,000. Mile-wise, that puts me right around Vincennes, IN. Even better is the fact that I reached it before my target date of New Year’s Eve. It’s wonderful knowing such supportive people, and I hope they can continue to give. With that said, the bulk of the remaining $4,000 will come from neighbors, local businesses, and generally people outside of my friend group. It’s getting that money that has me anxious. It also doesn’t help that 4K hasn’t distributed any info on how to pitch or handle sponsorships, info that I though would be available last week. In addition to Action Wheels, I plan to pitch to a financial firm where one of my college friends works. I’m not extremely worried for that; most of the leadership are alums of my college fraternity, and I played flag football with my friend’s boss last month, so I’ve got the connections. For a good pitch, I’ll need some guidance from 4K, since I’ll be acting as a fundraising arm of the organization.
There’s another definite fundraising event, although it’s several months away. During our borough’s annual yard sale in April, I plan to host several households on my family’s property, with proceeds going to 4K for Cancer. We did something similar for my sister’s club soccer team several years back, and the yard sale and concessions pulled in around $1,000. Before spring semester, I also want to explore donation nights at local restaurants and pretzel sales at the Rutgers-Camden campus, to see what the return on those might be.
Since winter weather has finally moved into south Jersey, riding outside hasn’t been too feasible. Fortunately, the family got a stationary bike trainer, so I can ride my own bike without the risk of frostbite, and possibly while playing LittleBigPlanet. It’ll need a speedometer for the rear wheel, but that’s a small expense. I should be putting my first miles on there this week.]]>
Training mileage to date: 141.34
Finals put a hold on my fundraising last week. I finished my last exam Monday night, and got right to creating a Facebook event for my ride fundraising. I got a few more donations in the past 24 hours, bringing me to $675. Mapping to my route, that puts me between Dayton and Cincinnati, Ohio. It still looks possible to get to $1000 before the end of the year. There’s still Christmas gifts (I’ve asked for donations in lieu of any presents), and I’ll be making a sponsorship pitch to my local bike shop, Action Wheels, soon (depending on when 4K gets the sponsorship packet sent out), so the $1000 goal is definitely doable.
I’ve had trouble getting in the training miles as well. The past few months, my main biking opportunities come with Saturday morning rides with Action Wheels. I’ll need to put in daily mileage if I want any chance of getting to 4000 miles by June. I’m hesitant to count the stationary bikes at the school gym, which aren’t nearly as comfortable as my actual bike, towards my mileage. The semester break will give me some chance to put in miles on my actual bike, as well as plan fundraising events with my sister.
I just recently finished this semester, but I can tell next semester will be a battle. In addition to school, I have fundraising for 4K, and want to get my modeling work submitted for publishing, because I won’t be able to do much with it come summer.]]>
Training mileage today: 47.12 (94.34 total)
Many thanks to this week’s donors (Jack, Gary, Tom, Patty and Allen, and a few anonymous family friends), pushing the fundraising total to $525. Because of your generosity, I have slightly more than 10% of my $5,000 goal and more than 50% of my first big fundraising checkpoint of $1,000 by February 1st. My focus is on finals for the next few weeks, so any big fundraising plans are unlikely before finals are over.
In the style of 4K for Cancer, I’m mapping my fundraising progress to the miles I will be biking come summer. I mapped out the route from Baltimore to Portland, based on the stops of the 2012 ride. The mileage may be off, since I don’t have exact addresses for the stops, and the map doesn’t mark bike-accessible roads (at least, not the inserted map; Google Maps has the option for bike routes, but that’s still in beta, so it’s better used as an estimation tool for bike routes). To date, my $525 puts me close to Columbus, OH. Let’s see if we can make it to Chicago by the end of the month.
My name is Christopher Say. For my first post on the 4K I would like to answer any questions that anyone has and hopefully with my ride I can inspire others.
P.S. If anyone would also like to contact me personally just e-mail me or post and I will try to get in contact with you.]]>
I just wanted to give everyone who has donated so far a shout out! I have reached what I consider to be my first major milestone — I’ve raised $1,000! My goal is to raise $10,000, so I still have a long ways to go, but I am so excited to be getting there so quickly!
Cycle. Inspire. Unite.
To get things started, I’m offering an easy option to a Christmas gift. Between now and December 20, 2012 (3 weeks!), you can make a donation in someone’s name ($20 minimum) to the Ulman Cancer Fund, and I will send that person a personalized holiday card. After you make a donation in someone’s name, e-mail the person’s name and mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll have a holiday card sent out to them by Christmas.
Coming up in later posts:
-Bike mileage updates (0 right now, but not for long)
-News on fundraising events and other perks for donors (aside from donations being tax-deductible)
Stay tuned for more, it’s going to be an interesting 6 months.
I’d like to thank my first donors (Bryan and Melissa, and an anonymous giver in town) for getting me 25% of the way to 20% of my goal. It’s a good start, and all before my first fundraising letter.
I’ll need a lot more than friends and family. It doesn’t help that my family has been out of the local school system for some time, and that I’m commuting into a graduate program. For the publicity and advertising aspect of the fundraising, I’ve sent out feelers to some local connections in business and advertising, asking about pro bono advice or fundraising management. In the best case, I can get help planning events, getting sponsors, and fine-tuning fundraising letters. If that falls through, my sister could put in some management time when she graduates later this month. Worst case, these next few months will be a crash course in non-profit fundraising.
Currently drafting my first letter, for family and friends. Since Christmas is coming up, I’m hoping to get donations in lieu of any gifts. It will be slow going at first, while I wait for responses from advertising help and for contacts from 4KFC about mentors for fundraising. I’m confident that I can get my first $1000 relatively easily. After that, I’ll need to get creative.]]>
Just as I was about to pass from Fidalgo Island to Whidbey Island, where our host at Oak Harbor was, I noticed a few bikers and the water van stopped by a lake by the side of the highway. When I stopped to take off my sweatshirt and put it in the van (it had gotten much warmer since we left Guemes), they told me they had faced a daunting dirt trail in the nearby state park, with their road bikes essentially being converted into mountain bikes. While the prospect of racing down a mountain on my thin tires didn’t appeal to me, I was excited to hike a couple of the trails in the area. I left my bike with Chelsea, who was relaxing carefree by the lakeside, and embarked on a quick hike that began right where we were parked. Besides being a fairly well-kept trail, it offered a good amount of elevation change, making it a lot of fun. The forests of fern and giant overhanging trees resembled a scene right out of Jurassic Park and made this excursion from the highway all the more worthwhile. Toward the end of the path, the trail turned into a muddy access road with deep grooves where large vehicles had passed through. As it got increasingly muddy, I decided to turn around and head back to the front of the park; I was ready for smooth pavement again.
After getting back on my bike, I still had plenty of time to explore. Just a few minutes from the trail head I passed by a scenic overlook for Deception Pass, the body of water that separates the two islands (so named because the European explorer who first saw them was deceived into thinking that Whidbey was part of the mainland). From the height of the overlook, I could see for miles over the brilliant blue water. It was amazing to ride so high up and to cross the beautiful pass from one island to the other.
Within a few miles, and after a couple more stops, I finally arrived at Oak Harbor, a town on the northern half of the island. Since I rode in on the commercial thoroughway, my first impression was of big businesses and endless fast food chains. Once I turned off the highway, though, I crossed into a quiet, hilly neighborhood overlooking the harbor. Even after stopping to hike, get a slushy, and find directions, I still managed to get into the host before any of the other riders. Considering the time it took all the groups to get in, it was probably the slowest twenty miles we’ve ever ridden on the 4K.
Greeting us at Oak Harbor were a few of Lindsay’s relatives, who opened up their home for us. After a few more people arrived, we were able to relax until dinner, watching a little bit of TV (something we havent done a lot of on the trip). A few neighboring families also arranged for riders to stay with them, and we met with them over a delicious home-cooked meal. It was great to get to talk to people about our cause when we’re so close to the finish line. It has been especially refreshing to have so many home stays toward the end of our trip. Now we can say we’ve accomplished something real over the past two months, and sharing these experiences with our hosts has been rewarding.]]>
The morning started off with somewhat of a challenge: to make it to the ferry in time. After a wonderful breakfast prepared by Lindsay’s family, we set out for the Port Townsend ferry, about ten miles away. Since we had gotten up later than originaly expected, we only had a short time to catch the earlier ferry. My group left first, and we made sure to move as fast as we could. I hadn’t realized that we were as pressed for time as we were, so I was slightly miffed at the brisk pace we were maintaining. When we got to the ferry just in time, though, I realized why we had pushed it; two other groups came in just after us, but the rest had to wait for the later ferry.
Once we got to the mainland after the thirty-minute ride, our groups decided to stick around Port Townsend for a little while. What we found was a surprisingly charming seaside town with plenty of little shops to visit. We were able to get ice cream donated (with some incredibly fresh, local, and strong favors), as well as other food. After an hour or two we decided to hit the road again.
For the most part the rest of the ride went as we expected, though there were a couple of surprises. I had imagined that our time spent along the coast as we made out way into Seattle would be relatively flat, since it’s by the water. As it turns out, western Washington, even near the waterfront, is home to some rather steep hills. A number of times coming into Kingston we turned a corner and were faced with what seemed like a wall of road ahead of us. A lot of times earlier in the ride we would see similarly daunting hills, but they would appear less menacing as we came nearer. On these hills today, however, that didn’t happened; they seemed nearly as intimidating as we were climbing them as from a distance. One hill in particular toward the end of our ride was probably among the steepest I’ve had to climb on the trip. Although it was only for about a quarter of a mile, it was still challenging to ride over yet so rewarding to have made it up without stopping. We have all come so far, both physically and mentally, since our first days on the 4K earlier this summer.
Luckily we made it to our hosts without any more “challenges.” Tonight we’re staying at Alex’s grandparents’ house just outside Kingston. They live right on the water, and from their porch we caught our first glimpses of the Seattle skyline. It was exhilarating to finally see our destination city, what we’ve been thinking about for the past several months. It seems so close that we could be there any time now. It has been a clear night, so we were even able to see Mount Rainier in the distance beyond the city; it’s so large and far away that at first I took its snowy peak to be just another cloud in the hazy blue sky; I was shocked to realize that it was an enormous mountain/volcano in the distance.
Alex’s family had been incredibly welcoming. Though they were undoubtedly excited to see her, they have been just as eager to meet with the rest of us, too. They had a number of incredibly fresh, delicious snacks waiting for us when we arrived, which we devoured at once. After we had some time to relax, they set up a smorgasbord of freshly caught fish, tortillas, fruit, and great desserts (including a particularly addictive rhubarb pie). It was a true pleasure to be able to relax on the porch by the Puget Sound and enjoy such first-class hospitality.
After dinner we had our last official team gathering. At previous get-togethers we’ve shared our personal connections to cancer, but tonight, since most people had already spoken, we chose to reflect on the ride and our future plans. We talked about what we have to look forward to as well as what we’ll miss from the ride. It reminded me just how unique our experience has been, something we’ll all have for a very long time.
Tomorrow we head out to Bainbridge Island, our last stop before Seattle and the home of the indomitable Cali Caughie. It sounds like they have a lot planned for us, so it should be a memorable arrival. We’re just trying to enjoy these last few days as we inch our way closer to the City of Goodwill.]]>
This morning, leaving the Neff household, we only had about twenty miles to ride to get to the southern part of Bainbridge Island, where we were told there would be a police escort to take us the rest of the way into town. We didn’t encounter anything too difficult along the way, although, like yesterday, some of the terrain was surprisingly hilly for a coastal area. Once we got to the police station, we waited until all the groups arrived and then prepared to follow a police car into the heart of town. For about two or three blocks, they ran their lights and sirens and blocked traffic while we made our way (slowly) into a green space where a throng of family and supporters waited for us. It was exciting to see so many people cheering us on as we reunited with those who were able to come out to greet us.
After the riders had a chance to say hello and catch up, the mayor officially welcomed us to the island and expressed her gratitude for what we’re doing. As an added bonus, she presented us with a proclamation that acknowledged our efforts and even declared today “4K for Cancer Day.” This has certainly been the first time we’ve received a mayoral proclamation; few other places have been as supportive as Bainbridge Island. It’s great to bring our trip to a close on such a high note.
After a few more photos and celebratory remarks, we rode to one of the island’s beaches to perform our ceremonial tire dip. In Baltimore, we dipped our rear tires into the “Atlantic” by way of the Inner Harbor; now we were to dip our front tires into the “Pacific” by way of the Puget Sound. We are as close as we’ll get to the ocean, so we decided to do it today. Unfortunately, it turned out to be more like a mud dip than a dip into the ocean, since the location and time we chose meant that we really only had access to a watery mud flat. Nevertheless, we placed our front tires in water that directly connects to the Pacific, thus culminating our trek from one coast to the other. Some people made the best of the muddy conditions and rode over the flats as far as they could. We all celebrated having made it this far, having come such a long way from the day we pulled our bikes from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor sixty-nine days ago.
Next we headed to Cali’s house, where we’re staying for the night. Her parents have been kind enough to serve as our last hosts as we gear up for our ride into Seattle tomorrow. They had worked hard to get everything set up for the evening’s party and to make sure all the family and friends had made it to their house from the ferry. Later that evening, after relaxing a little while, we were treated to a great cookout under the clear sky. This dinner was different from all the other wonderful host dinners we’ve had in that a good number of friends and family members from Maryland and elsewhere were in attendance. As we’ve seen before, there was no shortage of food, including bratwursts, fresh corn, a variety of different kinds of cookies, and even crab legs. This feast was certainly fit for our last night before finishing the 4K.
As we were eating we got a chance to share some of our more interesting memories from the trip. Over the course of more than two months, we have accumulated plenty of things to talk about, and it was fun to reminisce about the great times we’ve had so far. It’s still hard to believe that this is the last night of the 4K. Getting into Seattle will be relieving and sad at the same time. Still, tonight has reminded me of some of the unforgettable memories we’ve made along the way and the impact we’ve had. Even when the 4K’s over we’ll be able to harbor these memories.]]>
Day 59: Baker, NV to Ely, NV / 61.62 mi / 4295 ft
I was happy to leave baker for a “bigger” town of Ely. After the cheer we all left at different times. Not everyone was in an established group. I rode with Darcy, Leah, and Lauren. We went through two mountain passes. Each downhill was nice but going up continued to hurt my knees as it was really windy. The wind is what caused it to hurt more than the hill. Pedaling really hard, but not getting very far was really exhausting and took a toll on my body.
Day 60: Ely, NV to Eureka, NV / 79.53 mi / 4117 ft
This morning Patrick, our personal physical therapist, taped my knees. I killed my knees at the last climb yesterday and it hurt just to pedal, especially up a hill. The tape helped so much. This was the second day on the loneliest road in America and we quickly learned that it was called that not because there was no one on it but because there was nothing along the side of the road. There were so many cars driving past us and just the same scenery for miles. Darcy’s parents were very generous and bought pizza for the entire team!
Day 61: Van Duty / Eureka, NV to Austin, NV
I did van duty with Ethan today. This was my last van duty and I had never done water van, only host van. So I requested water van to make sure I at least did it once before this trip was over. I had planned to do it the next day but yesterday Darcy showed me the elevation chart for today and was very kind to suggest that I do van duty. The route was flat or downhill until the end of the ride which had a huge climb. I would much rather have to climb at the beginning of the ride than at the end. It was a good day to rest my knees especially with a hill at the end.
Day 62: Austin, NV to Fallon, NV / 73.61 mi / 1781 ft
Today I rode with Peter, Alice, Sandi, and Tony. It was Alice’s second day back and Sandi’s first day back. I was excited to ride with them. It was supposed to be 111 miles but we got shuttled about 40 miles because we were behind and it was hard for the water van to create water stops for us spread apart. I was kind of upset about having to get shuttled but then we were shortly handed lunch to eat in the car while we were shuttled and I was much happier. It’s amazing how much food can help on trip like this. At the end of the ride we saw a bunch of words along the side made out of stones. Tony wanted to write 4K in the sand so we stopped along the side. We thought he was going to make it look really nice; instead he just rearranged someone else’s. It said 4MASON so he just changed the M to a K and got rid of the A. We all sat in front of the rest of the letters to cover them up while we took a picture.
Day 63: Fallon, NV to South Lake Tahoe, CA / 88.03 mi / 4646 ft
The ride started off hard. The hills weren’t terrible but the wind made everything hard. Most of the ride I rode with Patrick Sheridan and Kelly. At the end of the ride there was a steep climb for about 9 miles. I knew I was going to go slow up the hill and I told the group to go ahead, that they didn’t need to stay with me, but Patrick came back at the beginning of the hill to ride up with me. I was glad to ride with someone even though I couldn’t talk; I had enough trouble riding and breathing. At the top everyone was there cheering us on. We had a nice downhill after that with an amazing view of the lake. We finally made it to California…just barely! With California being our final state we were a little disappointed by the smallest state sign on the trip. After pictures we rode down to the beach where we were than shuttled to our host which were home stays. When we got to the beach we were in California but then we drove back into Nevada to go to our host.
Our home stay family had an amazing house! We wanted to go to the beach to listen to the Brad Paisley concert so they made us sandwiches to take on the way but we were so hungry we just ate them right away. We left for the beach but with no parking available and the concert almost over we decided to just go for ice cream. It was some really nice team bonding that we hadn’t had in a while.
Day 64: Rest Day South Lake Tahoe
Today was a relaxing day. I woke up late. In the morning I uploaded and organized my pictures. In the afternoon a few of us went to a cancer walk. Even though we were finished with our volunteer requirements it was nice to do something again for the cancer community. In the afternoon, I caught up on blogging. For dinner the whole team and their hosts met up on the beach for a cook out for dinner. After we went back to the house some of us went into the hot tub. This was another really nice team bonding experience. Our theme song Save Me San Francisco came on the radio and the stars were so clear.
Day 65: South Lake Tahoe, CA to Davis, CA / 127.52 mi / 4478 ft
With a long day ahead of us I dedicated today to my mom, and it was a very long day! We started late as usual which is awful for a century plus day. It was already cold in the morning and on the way out of Lake Tahoe we went down a steep mountain that just made it freezing. We were supposed to have a steep climb out of the city and then downhill for the rest of the ride. The climb out was steep with had windy roads and cars driving close. There was construction and not much of a shoulder for us. Going down the mountain we held up traffic. After going down the hill I thought the rest of the day would be mostly downhill but we still had hills and some climbs throughout the day that were hard.
With some flat tires and other bumps along the road we lost a lot of time. So we split up the group between the ones who could go faster to make sure they finished the day and I went with the group who couldn’t go as fast. At the end of the day it was just Tony and I. The sun was setting and I just kept looking at my bike computer to see how much more we had. By the time we arrived it was 8:45 and dark. But we finished! I’m really grateful to Tony for riding with me. I know he would have been happy to get in the van at the last water stop but he kept going for me because he knew I wanted to finish.
Day 66: Davis, CA to Napa, CA / 53.34 mi / 2612 ft
For the first 25 miles it was easy and mostly flat. Our group split up after the first water stop. I rode with Kelly for most of the ride. We had three steep climbs. The groups were pretty spread out which makes it hard for the water van to get to all the riders. Kelly and I were running out of water. When we went to knock on a door of the first house we saw in miles we saw the van drive by but they couldn’t see us. No one was home so we decided to just keep going and eventually they would come back. Right before the last climb the water van came back; we filled up and continued on our way. The climb was full of switchbacks which was good but also a little scary because cars couldn’t see us around the turns. The last downhill into the city was so steep and windy I hurt my fingers pulling on the brakes.
Day 67: Rest Day / Napa, CA
During the rest day we went to some wineries for wine tasting. I don’t like wine but I decided to go to anyway to do something. After the first I was really bored. Heading to the second one some of us decided to not go so we dropped them off and went to get something to eat. I had a really good time with the small group of people. We didn’t have a donation for dinner so most people went to go buy food but I didn’t want fast food or to spend any more money. Dong, MJ, Chrismare and I went to ask for donations for ourselves. We got a donation at a diner and it was amazing! At night we painted our nails. Chrismare and I talked about doing a spa day for a while so we finally did it. Chrismare put on a movie and got a bowl from the kitchen and filled it with hot water and added a leaf.
Day 68: Napa, CA to Mill Valley, CA / 57.67 mi / 3159 ft
The day into Mill Valley was one of the easiest days we’ve had in a while. It was rolling hills but no major climbs. We got in early enough to walk around town. Six of us went out to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner.
Day 69: Rest Day / Mill Valley
Today was our last rest day before we left for San Francisco and I did nothing. I slept in late, uploaded my photos and just hung out around the host. It felt really nice to just to do nothing. We all went to a church where Darcy’s Aunt hosted a dinner for us. It was really nice. The food was amazing and we watched a slideshow of pictures from the summer. We were all together for one of the last times.
Our day started with breakfast by the Caughies and a performance of our last morning cheer and dedication. Somehow we managed to pull it off nearly perfectly with a precision and purpose that none of our other cheers have matched. We then made our way down to the ferry terminal to wait for the half-hour ferry that would take us to the heart of Seattle.
Riding the ferry and seeing the Seattle skyline slowly come closer was an exciting experience for all of us. We took turns snapping photos and marveling at the fact that we’ve made it. At last the time came to set foot in the city, and we rode as a group up to the busy streets that we would follow to the Seattle Children’s Hospital, our ending point. Along the way, though, Steven and Alex guided us along a tour of the city. First we got to ride through the famous waterfront Pike Place market and see some of the well-known sites there (such as the “gum wall” in an alley just off the market). We then traveled up to the Seattle Center, the home of the iconic Space Needle and a cosmic-themed outdoor velodrome, which we spun around before moving on.
Once we crossed the river we visited a sculpture of a troll under the bridge, as well as a nice hill that provided a spectacular overlook of the downtown skyline. I was expecting our ride around Seattle to be mostly ceremonial, with the hardest riding already behind us, but it turned out to be surprisingly challenging. Some of the hills are unusually steep and with little warning (leaving little time to shift gears). Today’s ride was actually one of the more difficult days of riding we’ve had recently. Luckily, after seventy days on the road, we were well-prepared for it; there wasn’t anything that could have kept us from our destination today.
Finally, after passing through the university district, we made our last turn into the Children’s Hospital, where friends and family were cheering us on. As we greeted everyone who was there to support us, we faced the realization that we had officially finished our cross-country bike ride. Once we took a few team photos and got our bikes secured, we headed into the hospital to take a tour of the pediatric cancer wing, which will soon provide an expanded section especially for young adults with cancer. While we were only able to meet with a few children, we saw all the resources they provide at the hospital (including a play space fit with miniature bicycles).
When we got back to the reception area we were treated to a lunch of wraps and small desserts, which we ate while a few people gave a short presentation about the hospital (including its plans for expanding its young-adult cancer wing) and the Ulman Cancer Fund. A young man in attendance was awarded a scholarship, which he plans to use this fall to begin college to eventually become a doctor; we wished him all the best and hope the scholarship helps him along his journey, which has just started as ours is coming to a close.
After the presentation at the hospital our ride officially came to a close, and we already started to go our separate ways. The rest of the day was filled with heartfelt goodbyes as we bid farewell to people who have been part of our lives for the past several months yet we don’t know when we’ll see again. We each went off and did different things: Some went home, while others stuck around and visited more of Seattle’s sights. Later in the day we visited Lake Washington, the body of water bordering Seattle on the east, as a relaxing way to cool off. Cali’s brother, Tyler, was kind enough to open his house to us while we spend the next day or two in Seattle until the time comes to drive the support vans back to Baltimore; it’s been very nice to have a place to stay while we enjoy what the city has to offer.
One surprise has been the phenomenal weather we’ve been having. This time of year is apparently quite pleasant in Seattle, but we have literally seen no rain and scarcely even a cloud in the sky, certainly not what we were expecting from the famously rainy city.
Now that the ride’s over, I want to thank everyone who donated to us over the past half year, without whom we wouldn’t be able to accomplish what we have. From large monetary donations to the simple gift of a few dollars, from entire meals to a couple of lollipops, all of the donations we received made our mission possible and our trip ever more comfortable.
The 4K has been a life-altering journey. At every turn we were able to affirm life and dedicate ourselves to make a difference in the communities we passed through. We saw first-hand how cancer has affected people equally from coast to coast, and we also saw people’s resilience in the face of tragedy. We formed a close team of twenty-seven with a common purpose and a determination to relish life as we crossed the country and saw amazing things along the way. They, and all the characters we met along the way, were the ones who made this the trip of a lifetime, one whose spirit and mission I hope lives on long after we have parted ways.
Thank you for the memories!]]>
The last morning was bittersweet. Since about day 50 I was homesick; some days weren’t too bad, others were worse. But this was when I really wanted to just get to San Francisco. There are some days that I will always remember and other days that I never want to remember. Last night was when I truly realized how much I will miss the 4K. Yesterday and today was a day full of lasts. The last time we ate dinner together and had a pow wow. The last time we would say goodnight. The last time we woke up with 28 other people surrounding us. The last time we packed up our duffle bags, were given the countdown of Bags Out and ate breakfast together. The last time we gathered in our circle for dedication and the cheer.
For 70 days I was surrounded by 28 people. Some days I loved it, other days I wanted time alone. Either way they made me stronger. They helped me climb mountains, ride through the 100 degree heat, picked me back up after I fell, distracted me during the most deserted scenery and helped me finish everyday that I rode.
As a small group of people, we made a small difference in this world and for the cancer community. The people we met along the way, at hope lodges, cancer centers, and on the road from one city to the next, had so many stories about how they were affected by cancer. I didn’t have a strong connection to the cancer community before this trip but through this ride, each town we passed I saw how much cancer can affect a person, a family, a community, an entire town.
We headed out in groups. Today was only supposed to be 11 miles but the shortest day of this trip didn’t mean anything. It wouldn’t be a 4K ride without hills, reroutes, confusion of the chalk and getting lost. Eventually we saw the bridge! It was the landmark I had been looking forward to since I left Baltimore. I couldn’t believe we finally got to San Francisco on our bikes. We stopped to take pictures and then continued on to cross the bridge but of course we had our “ceremonial hill”. Just because we weren’t going to host doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have a hill at the end of our ride. At the top we took a group picture at the lookout point with the Golden Gate Bridge. We crossed the bridge and rode to the beach. After 70 days and 4,000 miles we made it to San Francisco! It was an incredible, once in lifetime experience and journey that I don’t regret.
I am going to try to write some last blogs. They might not be super detailed, but it really depends on how much I can remember.
I stopped writing blogs because I was getting low on time. I also stopped because I became slightly burnt out on writing a blog everyday for 50 days. I am going to post as much as I can. I also wanted to spend more time with my team and the hosts.
THANK YOU!!! Thanks to EVERYONE who read blogs, donated, participated with the 4k in any way possible!]]>
Now, I’m not talking about stuff like becoming masters of incognito public urination, becoming very very slightly more knowledgeable of American geography, or becoming transcendent a.k.a. shameless beings capable of ignoring invented social conventions, such as finding appropriate places to sleep (i.e. on concrete or in the Walmart sporting goods section), eating sometimes expired food off the ground, or walking around in skintight spandex shorts buying ice cream in front of children. NOT THE CHILDREN!
Nor am I talking about knowing how to impress the ladies by biking with hands outstretched, standing up, and gazing off into the distance. Or knowing how to dance the Wop or the Wobble, how to make guttural noises vaguely resembling throat singing to instantly wake someone up, or how to wreck someone in foosball.
I’m talking about how we’ve grown from asking ourselves “Can I even make it up this mountain?” to “How fast can I make it up this mountain?” From just wanting to survive the day to wanting to finish it stronger. From believing that cancer affects everyone to really knowing that cancer affects everyone.
This cross-country trip is just as much a 4000-mile exploration as a deep self-exploration. It’s like at the beginning of this trip—I knew things would be tough, but I didn’t really know how tough it would be until I was actually doing it and experiencing it. This doing and experiencing teaches us what is real. Where our limits are, what we need to do to surpass those limits, and how we can help others surpass theirs. The 4K embodies action, day in and day out—real, tangible actions that cultivate personal growth and a generous spirit.
This experience is a milestone in my life, but milestones come and go. Too much stock is given to arbitrary dates, times, and events. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I need to make every day count (well, starting tomorrow because I just spent my entire first day back home lounging in bed). The 4K tends to attract kindred spirits that all seek adventure, but making a day count doesn’t need to mean undertaking bigger than life journeys like a cross-country bike ride.
Over and over again, I’ve seen people across the country sacrifice for us in a myriad of modest and unpretentious ways. Ask any 4K rider and they will say that when family, friends, community members, or even strangers that we coincidentally meet donate to us, cook us breakfast or dinner, buy us lunch, or invite us into their homes and lives, we appreciate and recognize that their actions are as great as, if not greater than, ours. I think it’s safe to say on behalf of the 4K that we are all tremendously thankful.
If you’re thinking about doing the 4K, do it for a reason and not a season, and you’ll be just fine.]]>
It was a unique, city hole-in-the-wall & I loved it. But what I loved even more was the Jamaican Jerk Chicken that I bought for lunch today from a food cart two blocks from our host:
That dish was delicious: spicy rice, crunchy chicken, a filling cabbage salad, and two festivals.
After finding lunch I hung out in the park for a while, making phone calls and catching up on some reading. Soon it was time for dinner. Dinner today was a special event, where I met Asa, a pen pal from Pleasant Valley Summer Camp. The camp, campers, and parents provided a dinner for us with the help of the church, while some kids performed a skit they prepared earlier that day. It was wonderful to interact with the community and meet the people that we had inspired.
The night finished quietly as we cleaned up the area and crept downstairs to catch some sleep. Tomorrow we’ll be riding through the desert to Grand Coulee, WA.
I still haven’t fully accepted that we are on the last leg of the trip, the last state, the home stretch…
Westward Through Washington,
We made it to San Francisco! All 29 of us crossed the bridge yesterday, and dipped our tires into the bay. I am still in disbelief that we made it! I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to cycle across the country. I have learned so much, and I hope I have been able to make an impact in the lives of the people we have met along the way.
A huge thank you to everyone who donated to me, supported me, and encouraged me along the way. Without you, I would not have been able to go on this trip. Since I started fundraising, I have been pleasantly surprised by all the generosity I have experienced, both from family/friends back home, and strangers I met along the way. Through the difficult times during the trip, thinking of my wonderful friends and family kept me pushing and going. I rode and fought for you all, and I will continue to ride and fight.
Though the physical trip is now over, the impact this experience has left on me has not. I always wondered how the past alum were still excited years later, but I think I can understand it now. There’s just something about spending 70 days on the road with 28 amazing individuals that will never leave you. Even as I am writing this just a day later, I already miss my 4K family. I have learned so much from my new friends. We have been there for each other in the best and worst of times, seen each other at our best and worst. I couldn’t possibly have wished for a better group of people to grow with.
One of the most important lessons I learned on this trip was to have confidence in myself and personal courage. I faced a lot of fears this summer, and went through a lot of physical and mental hardship, but at the end of the day, I still made it. Having my team behind me, cheering me on and believing in me, made me believe in myself. I think a lot of us underestimate just how much we are capable of, and this trip has taught me that my limits are at times only mental.
After all that I have seen and experienced on this trip, I truly appreciate my life more. As I often say now, life is too fragile and unpredictable to not live fully. There is too much pain in the world to not enjoy the happier moments with the people you love, and no room to “sweat the small stuff.”
To next year’s prospective riders: though this will be one of the most physically and mentally challenging experiences of your life, you will also make memories for a lifetime. It’s a crazy, unique challenge, not for the faint of heart. It will make you a better, stronger person, if you let it.
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” –Nelson Mandela
Once we had had our fill, they drove us around town on a tour of the island. It was fascinating and relaxing at the same time to get to see all of Anacortes’s major industries and points of interest. They even drove us up to a rock face overlooking the whole city and the surrounding waters. Such a tour from people who know the area was certainly a treat. It was amazing to stay with people who care so much for us and are willing to spend time helping out our cause.
After relaxing for a little while more, we parted ways with our hosts and made our way through downtown Anacortes on our bikes. Since we had some extra time, we stopped at the Skagit Cycle Center. Unbeknownst to me, a group of riders had already been given a 25% discount there after having explained the cause. When I went to get a new tire (I needed a new one, so I went for a legendary “armadillo,” said to be nearly indestructible), they surprised me by adding on the significant price cut. The kindness of small shops like this makes our ride so much more feasible for us riders.
My new tire in hand, we pedaled to the edge of town to meet up for the ferry to Guemes Island, a small settlement just off the northern coast of Anacortes and our destination for the night. It was already early afternoon, a sign of the slow and relaxed pace of the day. We waited at the waterfront until everyone else arrived. From what I heard, the others had host experiences just as great as ours; this town certainly turned out to be a great place to have us for the night. At last we loaded up the two vans with our bikes (it was more economical than putting all our bikes on the pedestrian platform) and took the five-minute ferry across the water to the island. Never before have we taken a ferry to get to our destination, although it may become a frequent occurrence in these last few days as we tour the San Juan Islands.
As soon as we disembarked, we were greeted by Bob Anderson, an islander and member of the United Church of Christ, which is hosting us tonight. He offered to ride up with us the rest of the way to the church, but since our bikes were still attached to the roof of the van and it was only a half mile to where we were headed, we decided to walk there together instead. He had even prepared a map of the island for us, with all the possible points of interest marked. Everyone has been incredibly welcoming, both in terms of the space we have (a large area in the church) and the food they provided for us to snack on (scrumptious cookies that slowly disappeared over the course of the day).
Some people dispersed over the island to explore, but I stayed back to talk to our host. He talked about the kinds of people who live on the island–a mixture of full-time residents and people who have summer homes here–and some of the projects they have going on. The islanders raised two million dollars to help preserve a part of their home, a staggering sum considering how difficult it was for us to raise close to half a million dollars for the 4K. I loved learning more about the island and how it operates; this had certainly been a unique place to stay.
In the evening we had a community dinner at the church attended by about a dozen island residents. They often have Tuesday dinners at the church, and they decided to make a special one during the summer for our arrival, too. A number of locals had brought potluck dishes; our host introduced the dinner by tying the tradition back to a form of indigenous potlatch (a redistribution of food at community gatherings) that occurred on the island prior to European occupation. People prepared chicken, fresh fruit, vegetables, and a table of wonderful desserts. We were able to meet with several women, including the pastor of the church, who were interested in our cause and our lives. Their upbeatness no doubt rubbed off on us, too.
After dinner everyone lingered about to chat and listen to our stories of cancer. We each presented how cancer has affected our lives, and our host was kind enough to share how cancer has been part of his family’s life as well. We then were able to hook up a big-screen TV and share photos and videos of what our trip’s been like. Everyone was laughing as we reminisced about the good times we’ve had so far. We’ve come such a long way from our first days in York, Pennsylvania, and in that time we’ve changed so much. Now that we’re almost there, we are starting to get some perspective on the trip.
Tomorrow we’ll leave Guemes and take the same ferry we took to get here to return to the mainland. From there we’ll go south toward our next island destination in the Puget Sound. It may have been out of the way, but where we stayed tonight has been well-worth a visit for the generosity and friendliness of the islanders who came out to support us.]]>
Libby is our last stop in Montana before Idaho.
We were pleasantly surprised when we discovered that Northwest MT had a lot of bike trails, so we took bike trails most of the way to Libby.
It was a fairly easy day, and we got to ride in a large group for some of the way (which is always a blast). It’s generally unsafe to do this on the road but there’s no harm in bunching up on bike trails.
Megan and I had to stop for some soda–we went for the 44 oz when we discovered that it was only $1!
We arrived at our host, Libby High School, home of the Libby Loggers. We are spending tonight in the upper level of the school gym, but not til after a wonderful dinner at the local church. We were graciously welcomed, fed until we were full, and then slowly made our way back to the school (and bed) with heavy stomachs.
Reflecting back on Montana, I have come the conclusion that these are the most beautiful 11 days of the trip. Montana is truly a gorgeous state with an abundance of lakes, mountains, and breathtaking views.
How is Idaho going to top this?
Missing Montana Already,
Today was dedicated to the men of the Kalispell firehouse, who generously opened their (immaculate) living/work space. Thank you for all that you do and for making our trip possible!
|Heading towards the MT-ID border|
We stopped about ten miles from Libby to check out the Kootenai falls, which were very powerful and had a large volume. It was a great way to start the day, though the stop did slow us down.
|Rapids at Kootenai Falls|
|The river near Kootenai falls.|
At the Kootenai falls we checked out a rope bridge. It was my first time on a rope bridge. It was exhilarating to stand, uneasily, above the raging river. Naturally, we had to jump and shake the bridge to ensure that we got the full effect.
|The shaky rope bridge over the Kootenai.|
We eventually–reluctantly–passed the border into Idaho.
|Crossing the border, during a descent!|
|Nearing Sandpoint, ID.|
We arrived in Sandpoint, Idaho, a quaint and welcoming town. The women that greeted us at the church, our hosts for the night, were enthusiastic about our arrival. They insisted that we immediately venture down to the local beach (they made sure to usher us into their cars at once). The beach was wonderful, but after a day of biking we only wanted to stay for a little while before heading to showers and dinner.
|The beach at Sandpoint. The locals insisted that stop here–for good reason!|
Tonight I’ve decided to stay in, take some time for myself, and ensure a good night’s sleep. I’m very excited to be heading into our last state tomorrow and want to be well rested for the journey.
Today was dedicated to the men and women of Libby who prepared our dinner last night. They were all awesome, sharing their stories surrounding cancer and their fight against it. Keep up the great work!
|Leaving Sandpoint, ID.|
|Our first water stop of the day–in the middle of a pond via a dock.|
|Entering Washington state.|
|Entering eastern Washington.|
|Entering Spokane, WA.|
|Leaving our mark at Boots Bakery in Spokane, WA.|
|Our first sign ever for Seattle.|
Entering Washington brought about a waterfall of emotions. First was a tremendous sense of accomplishment: We BIKED here. Never (before the 4K) would I had imagined that I would be biking from the East Coast to the West Coast, yet here I was entering a state that borders the Pacific. Second was the realization that we were truly nearing the end our journey.We were in our final state–the last stretch. Finally, I came to recognize how close we were to the finish line. We were within a day’s worth of driving to Seattle. How had I gotten here? It seems like only yesterday I was leaving my hotel in Baltimore for sendoff at the Inner Harbor.
We made it to Whitefish, and then ventured into Glacier National Park…where we got lost for seven hours trying to pick up the mail.
There’s no other place I would rather get lost. Take a look:
|Leaving Polson, MT|
|Our route was along the west side of the lake|
|A picturesque vineyard|
I love Glacier so much that I’ll be venturing back there tomorrow for a hike.
Today was dedicated to our hosts in Polson, for opening their space and giving us a roof.]]>
It felt like a scene from a movie–a group of adventurous young folk scaling the mountainside, hiking through snow and stream. The strong winds only added an element of novelty and fun.
The day didn’t stop there; after hiking we proceeded back down the mountain for a team building activity of whitewater rafting (pictures which I do not have access to, yet). The water was freezing, but the rapids were fun and any day out on the water is a great one.
Later this evening I ventured into town to explore Whitefish, which I found to be a bit too touristy and seasonal for my taste.
In short, today was AWESOME. I got to revisit Glacier, hike, whitewater raft, and explore a new town. Rest on a rest day? Nope, not today.
Of course, the fact that the ride was only 16 miles did not stop Megan and I from getting lost along the way. It turns out that GPS doesn’t work so well out West. Whoops.
Once we finally found the fire department and settled in, we got to check out the area. It reminded me of the New Jersey suburbs–a cluster of shopping plazas and parking lots placed along busy highways. Did I mention our host was hidden behind a Costco?
Tonight I’m drifting off to sleep while watching lightning dance in the far off hills. It’s a mesmerizing way to softly greet sleep.
Today was dedicated to the oldest member of the church we stayed at in Whitefish, who continues to battle cancer and live her life to the fullest.
What was more exciting was sighting the Badlands ten miles away from our destination. Along the horizon of an unpaved road that was terrible for our bike tires, we could see peculiar rock formations that looked like mountains from far away. Word among the team indicated that several movies used the Badlands to represent the surface of the moon.
Up close, the Badlands were absolutely beautiful. My use of descriptive language is pretty pitiful, so just take a look at the picture attached. On the way to our campsite in the Badlands National Park, we stopped at a museum-like visitor center that also showed a film every twenty minutes. To be honest, the best part about the visitor center was that it was air-conditioned. As a result, we decided to take naps in the dark theater room during the film.
We camped tonight for the first time this summer under the moonlight and stars, with mountain-like rock formations surrounding our camp. It was disorienting to have the moon illuminate our site while being on the moon itself.]]>
Mount Rushmore was definitely worth a visit. It was great to see in person with my own eyes. Plus, it was a good place to catch up on taking pictures. We didn’t do much other than the typical tourist activities up there though—checking out the museum, getting to know its history and significance.
It feels great to be so close to Seattle! We searched on Ella’s iPhone how close Grand Coulee was to Seattle, and it was only 4 hours away by car. We toyed with the idea of driving to Seattle for food—not that we actually would have, even if it was closer. Often I imagine what it’s going to feel like to bike into Seattle on that last day, seeing my whole family at the finish line.]]>
The descent during the last 30 miles of today’s ride was simply breathtaking. Beautiful snow-top mountains surrounded us as we barely pedaled to the bottom, and large turquoise-colored lakes reflected the sun to our right the entire way. Several times we stopped on the way to take some pictures or to just live in the moment for a little while.
I dedicated my ride today to my extended family waiting for me in Washington. My cancer-ridden grandpa lives with grandma in Everett, WA. The Chons live in Bellevue and the Songs in Kent—at least they did the last time I visited Washington. I haven’t seen them since 2006 when my mom’s entire family had a reunion in Seattle for our grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Those were quite some memories. I can’t wait to see all of them again!]]>
I dedicated my ride today to the mother of a good co-worker and friend from Hopkins. Shant and I headed the intramural staff at the Ralph S. O’Connor Recreation Center, and his mother is a survivor of breast cancer. I’m happy to have dedicated this super difficult riding day to her. It’s the people I dedicate my ride to that give me the strength I need each day.]]>
I slept on-and-off ’til the later afternoon, at which point I finally got off the couch and decided to do something productive (I’m typically not someone to just lay around).
So after making myself presentable to the public, I gathered my dirty clothes (of which there was many) and clamored over to the nearest laundromat. I used the laundry time to siphon some WiFi and get some work done.
Later in the evening I wandered along the river as the sun set in the west:
People of all ages and backgrounds were using the riverside land. Some college students floated down the river in tubes, while others convened among the park benches, their dogs in toe.
It was a pleasure to have some time to myself to make phone calls and walk, just walk in my own pace and time to slowly relax. It feels like we’re always rushing, moving forward, pushing westward–27 people, 27 opinions. After living within the same space with the team for so many days, it’s enjoyable to have some alone time.
After ending my winding walk with a huckleberry ice cream cone (we are in Montana, after all), I scurried back to the host to get ready for the day ahead.
Today we left Missoula for Polson, a lakeside town about 70 miles north of the city.
I’m happy to report that it was an uneventful day: no accidents, no wrong turns, no poor weather–just the team putting another notch in the belt.
|A land bridge for the animals–we passed under it on the way to Polson.|
|Descending into Polson, MT|
|Our lunch stop, about a mile from the host.|
Tonight we’re staying at a church that doubles as a school, with access to showers, internet, and laundry. I’ve nestled myself in a classroom corner, setting up my laptop on a desk. I feel as if I’m back in my dorm room, typing away at some assignment. It’s a nice feeling of familiarity.
Still, many unfamiliar places lie between me and the finish line–and I’m excited for each and every one of them.
Into the Unknown,
Today was dedicated to the children at Camp-Mak-A-Dream, for staying positive and joyful despite a difficult situation. I enjoyed meeting them, and wish them the best of luck in all endeavors.]]>
To those who have survived cancer…congratulations. You are an inspiration to us all.
To those who have lost the battle and those who are left to carry on their memory…may your hearts heal and grow.
To those who are fighting for your life…never stop. Never doubt yourself. Never forget how important you are to the world.]]>
I knew before hand that we would be riding US-20 across the North Cascades and was already ecstatic about the prospect of riding in one of my backpacking regions. Not to mention, driving on US-20 alone is enough scenery to make me more than happy, I could only imagine what riding through it would be like. The North Cascades did not disappoint in the slightest. It was some of the most beautiful rides that I have been on, although we have been on some gorgeous rides. Everything about the ride reminded me of my previous backpacking adventures: the air, the water, the trees, the smells.
To cap it all off, the day we left the Cascades was also the day we arrived onto the West Coast, seeing the Pacific waters for the first time in over 70+ days. My spirits keep rising as I start seeing cities I recognize on all the street signs. This is it! We are really closing in on Seattle and more importantly for me, home!
We’ll be spending a few days of leisurely riding in some of the islands of the Puget Sound before we arrive in Seattle which will give us ample time to truly enjoy the Pacific Northwest. I am looking forward to the last few days and even more so looking forward to showing my teammates around Seattle, somewhere where I spent a lot of time maturing and have a strong connection to.]]>
As such, we – the rugged group of 27 4kers – have found ourselves triumphantly on the Puget Sound. Our second and final body of salt water. Last night, many of us showered for the first time in a week at an assortment of Anacortes hosts found through the Warm Showers network. I stayed with Beth Smith and her husband in there lovely guest house, on a hill from which I could see fog settling into the San Juan Islands. After showering and a bit of a nap, I spent a lovely evening chatting with my hosts and eating berries and spaghetti. Today, I was treated to breakfast at Mary Anne’s in downtown Anacortes. Followed by a guided tour, including an awesome thrift shop! My heart was won. That afternoon, I met with our next couple hosts – two wonderful women who work at the Anacortes Island Hospital.
Around 2:30, we caught the ferry to Guemes Island and our Island Hosts. We spent the rest of the evening exploring the beaches and hikes before hanging out with a great group of Island locals and eating a fabulous meal.
What a way to begin winding down a trip which seems both impossibly short and a lifetime of biking. The Cascades were “brutiful” (a 4k combo of beautiful and brutal). And I cannot express the joy of finally smelling the salty water and hearing the gulls cry. This is surreal.]]>
When anyone was hesitant about doing something, one of our riders, Luke M. , used to say “In twenty years from now are you gonna remember sleeping or are you gonna remember (what ever you were hesitant about doing)” I have thought about this expression several times during this trip and this specific day in Glacier this expression was very relevant. I can honestly say that I will not soon forget the day I climbed the Sun Road. The Sun Road was, in my opinion the most awe inspiring, beautiful, incredible road I have ever been on(car or bike) and I can I biked it. The way the road carved up the side of the mountain and over looked the plush green valley containing the sky blue river surrounded by the snow-peaked mountains was jaw-dropping. The way up to the top of the Sun Road was painful and tiring, tho reaching the top and seeing the “Logan Pass” sign was an incredible feeling ( I don’t know if I had goosebumps from reaching the top, or from the temperature being a chilly 50 degrees- which was 30 degrees cooler than the base of the mountain.) The decent. Oh the decent was such a reward. I was able to coast down the mountain at 30 miles per hour and just look around and enjoy the view and the feel of the wind in my face. Now that I think about it I guess I really am not insane- This was the best decision I have made on the trip.]]>
Opening your eyes to the drop of “Avicii’s Epic Hangover” booming from speakers in the 4 AM darkness.
Eating anything and everything.
Tan lines the color of Neapolitan ice cream.
Screams of “I’m not a climber!” to the click of downshifting chains.
Scenic road trips in the 15-passenger beast that is The Cancer Van.
Water stop EDM raves.
The universally applicable justification of 4K-OK.
Foraging for buried treasure in a 60-lb trash bag of stale, molding bagels.
Open discussions of bowel movements.
Feeling so much like your bike is an extension of your body that a flat tire is worse than a stubbed toe.
Campfire ukelele and utensil orchestras.
The chamois butter dance.
Orange Gatorade powder… not.
Chalk messages from the water van that make you laugh so hard you lose your breath.
Abe’s sad face, cat noises with Lindsay, Alex’s spunky ginger powers, Kevin’s piercing lagoon blue eyes, Chelsea’s giggle, Johnny’s smile, Spencer and his horcruxes, Wild West Emily, Casey’s patience, Cali’s radness, Ella’s sweetness, crossing the plane with Steven, Eric’s voice of dissent, Ishpreet YOLO, Marc’s segues, Megan’s determination, Luke’s proverbs, the way Ray gets excited when he tells a story, alternative life plans with Melanie, Sam’s digestive system, tour guide Liz, Doug’s laugh, Jose’s purple toenails, crazy-legging with Caiti, time-space musings with Rose, and James’s sass bombs. My family.
Turning the corner to a view that makes you whisper, “Oh my god,” so quietly, only you and your bike can hear.]]>
This trip has made me realize how much of a wimp I really was. Physically and mentally. Before the trip, if a task at hand became even remotely difficult or discomforting, I would give up on it with a simple excuse that I just can’t do it. I had never pushed myself beyond the limits to accomplish something that may have been doable. Yet throughout this trip, I learned what it takes to break that barrier and make myself do something that I never thought I was capable of. To tell you the truth, I would wake up every morning and doubt myself how I was going to make it another day. With every joint in my body aching and sore (don’t even get me started about the saddle sores), I thought it’d be impossible to get back on the bike. But I learned to put all excuses aside, suck it up, and pedal on.
Travelling across America for the past two months, I’ve seen some beautiful parts of the country that left me speechless. But I’ve met even more beauitful people that have inspired me to make it this far. There wasn’t a single town this entire trip that hasn’t made an impression on me. I can’t even begin to thank all of our hosts along the way that made our trip possible. It’s not easy to let 27 sweaty strangers through their doors and to feed all of us. Yet, we’ve been so fortunate to have a roof to sleep under for most of our nights and even be fed dinner and breakfast. Not only that, they gave us the motivation to wake up at 4 o’clock every morning and bike another day without complaints. It’s so unfortunate, though, that in every city we stopped by, I’ve met atleast one individual who has been touched by cancer. There wasn’t a single day where I didn’t meet someone who was never affected by it. It made me realize once more how ubiquitous cancer is. Most people have the mindset that they are too healthy to get cancer. They never think it will affect themselves or their loved ones. Well, let me tell you now. You are wrong. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Don’t think too highly of yourself and make time for a check up. As one of our main missions on this trip is to raise awareness, I can’t stress this enough! (I hope I didn’t sound like a dad here!)
Now that the end is so close, my nostalgia is only growing and growing. I miss my friends, my family, my mom’s cooking, and everything else. But it’s also very upsetting to think that I need to say goodbye to my teammates who are practically my family now. Without them, I probably wouldn’t have made past day 4. I might be stuck somewhere in Mansfield, PA if it weren’t for them. I can’t thank them enough for dealing with me for the past 66 days. Hopefully, they can deal with me for 4 more days! And most importantly, thank YOU for never giving up on me and supporting me til the end. If you took the time to read this, you must care about me, right??? I know I say this a lot, but you really have no idea what even a small gesture of support meant to me. A short text message made a huge difference to my day. Whenever things got tough, I thought about all of you. I would be a liar if I said this trip wasn’t physically challenging. I still feel exhausted. But the main challenge was all mental. If I started the day off thinking I can’t go on another day, I really couldn’t. Yet, if I woke up thinking how much fun climbing the hills would be, I flew up the hills. I’ve learned to approach difficult situations with a different perspective. It’s all in the head. I never knew how much my attitude could make a difference in accomplishing a goal. Now when I go back home, I feel like i could do anything.
This trip has taught me so much, I can’t even describe it all. To any of you who have any interest in doing the ride next year, feel free to get in touch with me. I don’t even care if you dont know me, 4K will change your life. Seriously. But again, thank you all so much for sticking with me. I know I have 4 more days until Seattle, but it’s going to fly by so quickly. I will make sure to let you know once I finally get there! Can’t wait to see you all!]]>
As we started out early, we made our way out of Grand Coulee and immediately ran up against a few sizable hills. They weren’t anything too challenging, but it was a change of pace from yesterday’s cruise through the desert flats. The biggest issue I faced was a tire that went flat again. After grudgingly changing it, I didn’t have any more problems with it for the rest of the day.
One of the highlights of the day was that a good number of us were able to experience Washington state in the most natural way possible. Especially between miles 20 and 40 we basked in the cool breeze and enjoyed the thrill of our truly Adamic accouterments. It was great fun to ride so unencumbered and free; from the looks we got from passing motorists, I can only imagine they wished they could travel on bikes just as we were.
By the time we got to mile 60, though, the euphoria of the day’s earlier adventures had worn off, and I felt exhausted. We took a decent-sized rest stop and refueled on energy drinks and ice cream, but many of us were still feeling groggy. Little did we know, however, that the most challenging terrain lay ahead. Soon after moving out of the water stop as a big group, we faced a sizable hill that was steep and seemed to go on for quite some time. The riders stopped at the top for all of us to climb up it, and then we moved on to a second peak. All together there were a series of surprise mountains that we had to get over, despite being tired out from the first half of the day. Not having done a lot of mountains since my return to the bike, I was huffing and puffing up a number of the climbs, but we all made it up in one piece. While we weren’t expecting to have such elevation changes today, it was a great challenge to overcome, and it served as a preview of the Cascades that we’ll ascend tomorrow.
The rest of the ride was a thrilling chance to descend the hills we had just climbed. After a quick lunch stop perched precariously on the middle of the 40-MPH downhill, we made our way a little ways into the town of Twisp, a small, progressive community in a large valley between the mountains. We’re staying at the Twisp Grange, a farmer’s co-op that has opened its doors to us for the night at the last minute. Tomorrow we’re still planning to go through the Cascades, so we need to get a good amount of rest tonight, particularly after such a surprisingly hard day today. In spite of the prospect of making a difficult climb tomorrow, I’m excited to put myself to the test on what will likely be the biggest day of the trip we have left.]]>
Moving out of Twisp, we made our way twenty miles along rolling hills to Mazama, what was to be our original host for the night and which lies at the foot of the Cascades highway pass. We steeled ourselves for the unknown ahead; all we could see were mountains surrounding us, knowing that we’d have to ride over them somehow. In preparation for the climb, we did what we’ve done before on big mountains: We divided into pairs as opposed to groups of four or five in order to make sure everyone could go at her or his own pace. Marc was my “climbing buddy,” and after getting our share of preemptive snacks, we headed out at a moderate pace. Within a few miles we started to encounter a mild incline on the road. We saw signs indicating the start of the climb, saying we were entering the North Cascades Scenic Highway. Among the more ominous road signs were those that warned against using air condition for fear of engine failure and ones that recommended certain kinds of traction for vehicles; such indications made me fear we were in for a steep and long path to the summit. However, for the time being, all we saw were relatively gentle hills and even some downhill segments.
The road continued this way for a few miles until it became steadily uphill. It was somewhat taxing, but we kept a slow but steady pace that kept us going without any major exhaustion. Plus, we weren’t merely riding in the middle of nowhere; we had a beautiful backdrop against which to challenge ourselves. The mountains rose up quickly and majestically, just as they did in Glacier National Park. In fact, the snow-capped peaks reminded me much more of Glacier than I thought they would. Not having biked through there, I was pleased to be able to climb up something at least similar. The combination of the pine forests with the monstrous rocky cliff faces made this one of the most scenic places I’ve had to fortune to ride through.
As we steadily gained more elevation, we started to see snow on the road in the distance. At last we came around a corner and were surprised by an enormous snow bank along the side of the highway. Since this was the first time I’ve ridden past snow on my bike, we had to stop and play in it for a little while. It was hard to believe that, in the middle of July, we were standing on the side of a huge pile of ice and snow, and it was still at least 60 degrees out! After a few photos (and putting some snow in our helmets for natural air conditioning), we continued our ascent through the mountains.
Our first water stop on the climb was placed at a ridge overlooking a cliff face we had just come up. The road we had traveled was at least a few hundred feet below us, and it was hard to believe that we had surmounted that distance with our muscle power alone, especially in such a short time. From this stop we had only a one-mile climb left before we reached the top of Washington Pass, at just over 5400 feet in altitude. It was such a relief to have reached the summit, after which we were able to relax and ride the other side of the mountain down until we reached the next hill. This one we knew wouldn’t be quite as long a haul as the first, but I was surprised at just how short it seemed compared to the first. In no time at all we saw the other riders greeting us at the top of Rainy Pass, a crest not quite as high as Washington Pass. From this vantage point we could look back and see the snowy mountains we had just crossed, as well as a portion of the famous Pacific Crest Trail, which extends from Canada to Mexico. The team rested here for a while as we waited for all the riders to finish the climb and for the lunch van to arrive with food.
It was still rather early in the day, so after a couple of hours here, we finally decided to head down the mountains to our destination for the night. We were told we had a thirty-mile descent, and we were scarcely disappointed. Although there were a few hills that disrupted the continuous downward direction of the ride, we enjoyed being able to ride quickly for such a long stretch. We passed by waterfalls, dams, crystal-clear water, pine-covered mountains in the distance, and some of the most amazing vistas I’ve ever seen. Especially toward the end, when I reached the fastest speeds I’ve ever ridden on a bicycle, it was indescribable to fly down the mountain with such beautiful terrain whizzing past us. In all we went upward about one mile and came down a similar distance, a feat I never would have imagined being able to accomplish in a single day.
At last, after nearly eighty miles of climbing and descending, we arrived at our destination, the Colonial Creek Campground in North Cascades National Park. One of the park rangers graciously allowed us to stay there for free, and we had access to a number of the campsites that weren’t being used at the time. Out of all the places we’ve slept outside, this was easily my favorite experience. The camp area had bathrooms and ample space, and we could easily see the mountains from where we were staying. A few meters from where we set up our tents we had access to the creek, which was freezing cold but which had just enough flow to be able to bathe in, a feature I readily took advantage of. This was my first time on the trip bathing in a natural creek, and it was just as clear as the river we had seen earlier.
Our stay at Colonial Creek has been the perfect ending to a wonderful day. I was anticipating a lot from the Cascades, since I had heard so much about them along the way, yet they exceeded all my expectations. As the last challenging day on the 4K, it has been a pleasure to ride through these mountains and to camp right in the heart of the pristine wilderness. I can’t wait to finish relaxing and complete our ride through the last part of the Cascades tomorrow.]]>
…The line for the morning bathroom works much like getting to the water van in a desert stretch. You know you’re moving but you can’t seem to get closer to it.
…Your flatulence could be weaponized for use by the United States Army.
…You trust fun facts about as much as you would a syringe you found in a gutter.
…As you’ve unfairly learned, driving a cancer van doesn’t protect you from traffic tickets.
…Shaving your teammates is all the recreation you need to pass a night in Madison, WI.
…Your diet nonchalantly includes worms, ants, and tadpoles. The ambitious go for floor milk, scabs, and nose grapes.
…The only things more offensive to you than thievery and murder are detours and backtracking.
…When asked what you’d like for breakfast, Frosted Mini Spooners, Berry Colossal Crunch, Coco Roos, Tootie Fruities, and Golden Puffs all come to mind.
…You’re unsure whether your teammates have gotten better about hygiene or the olfactory receptors in your nose are simply dying off.
…The worst part about every mountain is the air resistance and speed limit on the descending side.
…The songs “Build Me Up,” “Simon Says,” “Wagon Wheel,” “Epic Hangover,” “I Wish It Would Rain,” “Country Roads,” “Gonna Fly Now,” “I Love You and Buddha Too,” “Call Me Maybe,” “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” and “Let’s Get It On,” mean more to you now.
…The most uncomfortable thing you did in the last 70 days was a very forced sing-a-long. More so than climbing on a hot day or bathing in a mountain creek.
…Like predators that learn to look for poisonous markings over time, you know how to identify the heaviest duffels and avoid them.
…The most common precipitation you experience is the teammate riding in front of you who won’t stop blowing their nose.
…You know better than to get emotionally attached to your sweatshirt, socks, water bottle, or jerseys. They’re replaceable since your teammates are as good at losing things as you are.
…The last thing you ever get on a rest day is rest.
…You have a very sensitive 20-mile-sensor and the people driving the water van provoke it at their own risk.
…The creaking noise coming out of your bottom bracket scares you infinitely more than the roar of the barreling semi to your left.
…It works out well that you don’t have a firstborn son because you would have given him away a long time ago for a couch or outlet spot at a host.
…You hate touching your granny gear… unless it’s to race your teammates around a parking lot.
…You’ve eaten more fast food in the past summer than in the previous 5 years of your life, and yet somehow, no matter how much you have, you want more.
…The idea of eating only 1 hamburger, slice of pizza, or cookie seems comical.
…Every time you smell your gloves or helmet, you gag and warn yourself not to do it again. A reminder you will take less seriously in 24 hours.
…Host facts let you know about the availability of dinner, breakfast, and showers, but just as critically, you wonder if there will be a suitable place to dry your shammies.
…This summer is the only time in your life when you’ll be commended for driving a large white van slowly while around schools and playgrounds.
…You will go any length to save money on food only to turn around and buy everything you don’t need at a thrift store.
…You vow to buy Pop Tarts after this trip and actually eat them instead of just interring them in a box.
…Anyone who blogs more than you has too much time on their hands and anyone who blogs less than you is costing you a team prize.
…The only thing more inconsistent than Jose’s haikus is the smooth asphalt of Michigan’s highways.]]>
Our adventure started early on as my group made our way out of the city of Spokane. We left considerably earlier than the others, so we were the first ones to follow the directions that the water van had marked. We saw signs for Seattle that took us onto Interstate 90, a road that we’ve reluctantly taken before but that I didn’t expect to have to ride on again. When we came up to the entrance ramp, though, we noticed that the chalk told us to follow 90 until we split off onto highway 2. As we merged onto this multiple-lane freeway, I was both excited and nervous, since we didn’t have a lot of space to ride. While I expected to go an exit or two, we ended up having to ride about two miles to break off onto highway 2, during which time we made sure to stay together and be as safe as possible. It was quite a hair-raising experience, but we were able to navigate everything all right. By the time the other teams got there, though, a re-route had been found, so we ended up being the only ones to brave the freeway today.
After getting off 90, the landscape changed suddenly, and we were treated to sights we haven’t seen in a while. The pine forests and hills of Spokane gave way to a largely flat and desolate desert ecosystem. I had no idea that eastern Washington looked like this; to me it resembled South Dakota or Utah more than Washington state, but apparently it’s typical of this part of the state. Although it got somewhat boring, I still loved seeing something that reminded me that we’re still in the West. In addition to the desert we saw some extensive wheat fields, where we had one of our water stops. It was fascinating to see areas that break the stereotype of this region.
Later on in the ride we faced a series of long hills. They weren’t very steep at all, but they extended as far out as the eye could see to the horizon. We took them slowly enough that they were entirely doable, but it was still a little tiring. After a while, just as we were getting closer to Grand Coulee, we came up to a massive downhill segment: our “reward” for the climb we had completed. It was fun to finally have a break from pedaling, and it almost took us the rest of the way into our host town.
There were a couple more hills to get over, though, and as luck would have it, my tire, which had been giving me trouble all day, finally went flat. I had pumped it up a few times already, and by this point I was frustrated enough that I decided to simply walk the several miles we had left into town. Needless to say, I was fuming on account of my defective tube, but I finally made it. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to rely on the mechanics of a bike to get places; it was refreshing to use my own two legs to finish the ride, and by the time I got to the host, I had made peace with my bike once again.
Tonight we’re staying at the Catholic church just on the outskirts of Grand Coulee. The town is situated right next to Grand Coulee Dam, which was a massive sight to see as we descended into town. It’s the home of the largest source of hydroelectric power in the United States, something unsurprising considering the extensive array of power lines extending out from the valley above and around us. They have a laser light show at night there, and some people might go out and see it tonight. Other than that, we plan to relax and gear up for what may be one of the longer days of the trip we have left tomorrow.]]>
The morning started off slow as we made our way out of our tents at Colonial Creek Campground on national park land. Last night was one of the most comfortable sleeping experiences I’ve had while camping; we all kept warm, and I was able to get plenty of rest. Once we finically got moving, Abe, Ella, Ishpreet, Raymond, and I headed out to finish our descent out of the Cascade Mountains. We had a few miles of hills to start out with, but we soon reached the same kind of downhill passages we enjoyed on the second half of yesterday’s ride. In addition to the scenic views of the great cascading waterfalls and creeks we’ve become accustomed to (and for which the mountains are named), we were treated to a couple of tunnels carved through the mountainside. Since I missed out on the ride through the tunnels on the way to Yellowstone, I was especially excited for these. The first one was short enough to be lit the whole way through by sunlight and was spiced up by a waterfall inside it that I dipped under. (Just like the creek, the water was frigid cold.) The second tunnel scared me at first, since I was heading toward it at thirty miles an hour, it looked completely dark, and I wasn’t wearing any kind of headlight. I made the decision to just hang on as tight as I could and cruise through it as I held on for dear life. Luckily there were some LED lights placed on the median in the road, so I was able to judge where I was. Still, I was riding through pitch darkness, with only the light at the end of the tunnel to guide me. It was a thrilling experience, during which I was screaming at the top of my lungs out of sheer excitement.
The rest of the ride down the mountain was not quite as amazing, but it was still neat to pass through the edges of the Cascades forest. We had all planned to relax on today’s ride, and we were doing a good job of it until about halfway through, when some members of my group started getting flat tires. These unavoidable delays, combined with increasingly strong headwinds and clouds rolling in, made the second part of the day significantly less pleasant, but we eventually made our way to the lunch stop in a town about twenty miles from our stop tonight.
There we switched up groups in anticipation of tonight’s rather unique host situation. Instead of staying at a single host, we are lodging at several private homes in the Anacortes area that have been willing to help us out. Consequently, we have half a dozen destinations in the city, so we had to break into separate groups and get separate directions. As it turned out, I was staying with Marc, the same person I climbed with yesterday, at a home near the heart of the city. (Others were staying further away from town.) We powered through the twenty miles we had left, crossed the water onto Fidalgo Island, and easily made our way to the doorstep of Art and Lexie Shotwell.
As soon as they saw us they came to greet us and get everything situated. They’ve been nothing but helpful and jovial, and it ended up being a breeze getting our bikes in and feeling at home. They provided us each with a bed (a fine luxury on this trip), warm showers, laundry, and a filling dinner of a delicious and spicy chicken soup and sumptuous cornbread. They made sure all our needs were met; I don’t think we’ve wanted for anything during our stay with them. It’s also been fascinating to learn about their lives in Honolulu and Los Angeles (Art was a news correspondent in South Korea as well and has won a number of prestigious journalism awards) and their stories about hosting cyclists from all parts, including groups crossing from Alaska to the tip of South America. They also personally do a good amount of biking and were able to share with us some of the better paths in the area. Out of all the people we could have stayed with, I can think of few better people than the Shotwells to have hosted us.
Though somewhat unconventional, due to the divided hosting situation, our stay in Anacortes has been phenomenal so far. Tomorrow we don’t have a very long day at all (just a ferry ride to the next island over), so we should have time to explore the town some more. Now that we’ve reached the Washington coast, we’re practically in Seattle already. It’s just nice to be able to extend our 4K adventures out a little bit and explore such interesting places as the coastal town of Anacortes.]]>
Tonight is our last night in Montana and it’s a real shame because this has been my favorite state by far. Mountains wherever you look, two amazing national parks (Yellowstone and Glacier, both of which I camped in and had so much fun), friendly people, small western towns, and lots of other bike tours. Somewhere in Montana we picked up an Adventure Cycling route and began to see many more cyclists out on the streets touring, in both directions, all with their own interesting stories.
On the way from Sheridan to Wisdom- Wisdom being the smallest town we’ve stayed in yet- my group met a couple of young adults, Catherine and Zach, moving from Tennessee to Portland…on their bikes! I liked Catherine from the start because we had the same color sea foam grip tape, we both were carrying small American flags and we both had camouflage accessories…uncanny!!! They were both really sweet, they had their bikes packed with gear that must have weighed an extra 15 pounds so I really couldn’t complain about riding 105 miles that day or climbing mountains.
Early this month we camped out for the first time in the Badlands. I remember riding in that day with Caiti, Kevin and Emily. We had a blast and even when we were on rolling dirt/gravel hills for almost 8 miles, we were having a good time. We came over one of the hills and got our first sight of the Badlands in the distance and even further behind them were the Black Hills which literally looked like shadows from where we were. Little did we know we would be climbing them a couple days later. Right when we got near the park entrance of the Badlands we saw a sign for $50 helicopter rides and immediately knew we had to jump on the opportunity. The company ended up giving us two for free so we each paid half price. Although the ride itself only lasted about 10 minutes, it was my first time on a helicopter and the bird’s eye view of the park was unforgettable.
The next day I biked in my American flag bikini and dedicated my ride to the USA! It was a happy 4th of July indeed. We arrived in Rapid City, SD, home to Mount Rushmore, which was another exciting milestone in the trip.
Another of the highlights since I last blogged was Yellowstone, where we camped for two nights, went on a few long hikes, saw bears and bison for the first time, hung out by the lake, and ate primarily tortilla chips and beans for 48 hours. The ride to Yellowstone was absolutely gorgeous, unfortunately I took a tumble about 30 miles in and injured my shoulder and tailbone. I had a bruise the size of a baseball on my bum which ended up spreading down my thigh all the way to the back of my knee after an unfortunate bridge jumping incident in Yellowstone!
^ I started this blog over a week ago so that shows you how good I am at blogging. Now we’re on Guemes Island, WA, the most western we’ll be the whole trip and it feels really strange. Weird to be on the other side of the country already and to say I’ve gotten here on my bike. Really sad to know this trip is practically over. The past two days we spent getting through the last big obstacle of our trip..the North Cascades. It was awesome. I’ve learned to love climbing mountains!
Writing this blog is making me sad because I hate thinking about this trip being over while I sit on the back porch of this church and think about all the things I want to be doing with my team while I still can! Also, I’ve decided my excuse for not blogging a lot is that I’m saving all the good stuff to tell you all in person.
Although I’m having the experience of a lifetime, of course I miss all of my family and friends and can’t wait to see everyone and catch up. That’s all you’re getting for now.
I really do apologize for leaving you all hanging but when I get home just give me a call and hound me to come visit and I’ll give you all the details you could ever want!!!!! I promise!
Now enjoy some pictures!
On the rest day we went for hike called Angels Landing in the park. This was the main reason I wanted to camp. I was really excited to get out in nature, especially since I haven’t hike since the spring. When we started I was worried because everyone I was with was in really good shape. Even though most people would say I am in good shape for biking this far, the muscles for hiking is very different than biking. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep up. As we got higher up and the trail became steeper we all went about the same speed. We thought we were at the top and then realized we had a lot more to climb. This included rock scrambling and chains the whole way up to hold on to. I was doing this hike in my sneakers and not hiking boots so I had a lot less grip which made me a little more cautious. The views going up were amazing and the rock formations were beautiful! When we finally got to the top we were on a cliff with 360 degree views of the canyon. This was such an awesome experience!
After the hike we left to drive back to the host. As we got closer we went to get lunch and dinner donations. The rest of the day consisted of dinner, laundry, shower, and reorganizing my bag. I was exhausted when I went to bed.
Montana was great. It was my favorite state of the entire trip. It’s beautiful, it smells great, it’s clean, everyone’s nice, etcetera etcetera. One of the biggest highlights was visiting Glacier National Park. I actually ended up getting dragged into camping there, which wasn’t the original plan, but turned out to be a blast. To date, Glacier is the prettiest place I’ve ever been. Sorry, Yellowstone. We also had the chance to try our hands at whitewater rafting while we were there. Thanks Val for the hook up – it was gorgeous/super fun and the entire team loved it.
We spent some time in a town called Whitefish, which was a nice break from the Montana wilderness. It’s a gentrified ski resort town and has a very modern feel to it. That night we were treated to the best meal I’ve had on the entire trip. The owner of Wasabi, Paula, brought out plates of sushi and pad thai and we feasted. It sure was nice to get a break from the onslaught of tacos/burgers that make up our everyday meals.
From Whitefish we headed over to Kalispell where we stayed at a fire station. The first half of the day was relaxing (very short ride), but I ended up coming down with a fever that night. The next day we made it into Libby where I promptly threw up on the floor of a clinic. Whoops. I’m alright, though. It was just a nasty two days. And hey, sometime in there we managed to see the new batman movie for free. Batman reminds me of myself a lot.
From there we traveled to Sandpoint, Idaho. I was stuck in the water van so Eric and I put our skills to use and erected a 4k flag made of thank you cards on a flag pole made of sticks. It was great. Truly a monument to our ingenuity and fortitude on this trip. We also decided to play songs featuring bagpipes in the van for one of our water stops. Unbeknownst to us we ended up having to wait there for 2.5 hours for all the groups to make it in (soooo many flats). At this point it’s safe to say I’m sick of bagpipes. Anyhoo, Idaho was nifty. We had a lovely dinner and our hosts gave us a few bags of fancy energy chews to share. Much of the night was spent bickering over how to divvy them up. It was grand.
Spokane, WA was up next. Crossing into Washington was an emotional moment without a doubt. I can’t believe we’ve made it to the last state! We had a blast there as well. Mark O’reilly, the director of a summer camp in Spokane, set us up with a wonderful barbeque and we had the chance to meet some of the campers and community members. Other standout Spokane memories include meeting up with Charlie and Erika, members of the Spokane Cycling Club and a place called “Neato Burrito” that sold 1 dollar beverages and grilled cheeses on Wednesday nights. Man did we luck out.
From Spokane we headed to Grand Coulee. Turns our Eastern Washington is basically a desert. It was weird to return to dry, open terrain after spending the last week or two amongst some sweet pines. All the way into Grand Coulee we could hear rattle snakes on the side of the rode. Indie (Jones) would have probably pooped his pants.
Like I said, we’re in Twisp, WA now. Today was a trek. We had about a 90 mile ride in, but we were expecting it to be relatively flat. SURPRISE. There was a mountain range that we had to cross over toward the end. Hahahaha, it was hilarious. There’s nothing like plodding along to realize that you’re climbing thousands of feet all of a sudden. The first 60 miles were tiring due to wind and rolling hills so I did my best to book it into lunch. I gave it my all and ended up getting to the top first, where I promptly hopped off my bike and passed out. Tomorrow we’re crossing over the cascades. It’s our last real climb of the trip. I’m pretty bummed about that. For me, climbing is a chance to push myself and really focus on why I’m riding. But hey, I couldn’t have asked for prettier mountains to finish with. The cascades look magnificent from here.
Until next time!]]>
Since I don’t feel as though I have a prayer at keeping track of all that has happened, I will go ahead and say that a trip highlight for me was Glacier National Park. I have never visited or imagined a more beautiful place and am not sure there is one. Emily, Jose, Molly, James and I went for a hike at the summit of Logan Pass while a brave group of seven biked Going to the Sun Road. My fellow hikers were patient with me while I slipped and slid all over the snow, especially because all of us wanted to stop every five feet to point out how incredible the view was.
As far as the last week of our trip goes, I look forward to making every moment with my fine fellow riders a good one. We are all pretty nervous to re-enter a world where we shower alone, pee indoors, blow our noses into tissue, and are surrounded by people who think we’re crazy for calling a 70 mile day nothing.
Thanks again to all those who have supported me, my team, and this organization.]]>
To summarize my last few weeks: my knee popped when I was going up a flight of stairs in Boulder, CO. Ever since then (and two Rocky Mountain passes later), I have been unable to bike. I was trying to rest my knee (and ice and ibuprofen) and allow it to heal. However, one of my teammates is a physical therapist and we discussed that the rest didn’t seem to be making things any better, so I could start biking again (very, very gently).
Yesterday was my first day back. The water van picked me up and drove me on most of the hills, so that I wouldn’t be pulling my knee. The support from the entire team was unbelievable. I rode 27 miles with my amazing group for the day (Lauren, Chris, Leah, Darcy, Peter, and Tony). Today, I rode 75 miles with Peter, Tony, Sandi (on her first day back!), and Stephanie. These past two days have been some of the happiest I have been on this trip. Today was especially amazing because I got to finish the day, rolling in to some of the best hosts we’ve had (shout out to Patti and her husband!)
Through the good and bad times, I have discovered that my family and friends, and amazing teammates always have my back. The 4K has been very tough on me physically, maybe more so than a typical 4K experience, but I would not take it back. Just thinking back to the training rides and first few weeks of the trip, I have realized what a transforming experience this has been. As cheesy as it sounds, I am an entirely different person than the one who dipped her tire in the Inner Harbor and rode for 13 hours to Alexandria on the first day. I am fortunate to have had this experience, and to have met so many inspiring people along the way.
To next year’s applicants – this trip is NOT for the faint of heart… but I promise you that if you decide to join the 4K family, it will be well worth your time. Be prepared to be forever changed!
The route from Bryce to our host was supposed to be about 145 miles. It was too expensive for us to camp in Zion National Park and our host was 45 miles outside the park. The plan was to ride 100 miles to Zion and then shuttle the last 45 miles. About halfway through the ride we learned it was only 70 miles to the park. There are certain areas in the park that we couldn’t ride our bikes so the van drivers decided to still shuttle at Zion to the host.
In the beginning we had a small hill but for the most part the ride was all downhill. This always worries me because I know we will have to climb back up. Going down before an uphill mentally makes it harder for me to climb the hill at the end of the ride. About 10 miles into Zion we had a gradual incline of about 8%. Typically that wouldn’t be too bad but it was the end of the day and I was tired so I had trouble getting up. Once we got to the park entrance we had lunch and then split up into two groups of those camping in the park and those going to the host. I chose to camp. I kept going back and forth with my decision because I had a lot to get done but at the same time I would never have the chance to camp in Zion National Park again. We drove to the campsite and immediately I went to the river behind the campsite. We soon left for dinner. It was a really nice time to go out in a smaller group. For the rest of the night we sat outside talking and enjoyed the sunset over the canyon.
Day 59: Baker, NV – Ely, NV – Today I was antsy to get on the road so Tony, Hyo and I left first right after we had our ritual morning dedication circle. We had a great day and I had a great talk with both of them, especially Hyo. We had a good “life” convo. We had a couple gradual hills with some false flats to ride but in general was a good day and a couple real hills as well. Something that I’ve noticed throughout this whole trip is that most places are build on flats but there is always a ceremonial hill to get to any host site. It seems like every time there is a hill that is placed in front of us just so that we can have one final push before we finish.
Day 60: Ely, NV – Eureka, NV – The ride today was fun. I was part of team “ponder”. The directions today literally were to stay on the same road for 70 miles and then turn right into the host. We had a lot of time and were able to split up and enjoy just thinking about life, our futures, our past and how we came to be the person we are today. It was a very chill, solo day today.
Day 61: Eureka, NV – Austin, NV – Today’s ride was awesome. We were on route 50 which around here is dubbed, “The loneliest road”. I road with Cheema, Nana, K bar, and Michael and we did what every 4Ker does on the loneliest road. It was an interesting and freeing experience. I also primarily rode with Cheema today, especially up the hills. It was a fun day talking about music, basketball and medical stuff. We also saw a HUGE dust devil which I tried to capture on camera but by the time I got the camera out it had died down. We also saw sheep.
Day 62: Austin, NV – Fallen, NV – Today I was doing van duty with Chrismare and we had a fun filled yet very busy water van day. We were running back and forth all day today and everybody was having a good day. At the dedication circle Alice was so kind enough to dedicate her day to me for helping her get back on her bike. I was super excited to see her and her group roll into the host. It was a very satisfying day. Chrismare and I also had some really good talks in the van when driving from place to place. It was one of my most favorite support days yet (and quite possibly my last). Our host tonight at the Church of the Nazarene were very excited to see us and host us which is also another bonus.]]>
This morning I had to deal with the consequences for the hike I did yesterday in Zion. I was in extreme pain and my muscles were really tight. I rode with Ethan, Marilyn, Hyo, Leah, and Darcy. The route started out fine but then we were directed to a bike path that follows the road. Even though it was safer than the shoulder of the road I prefer the main road. The bike path was much steeper. The hills were not cut out for the bike path the way it was for the road. So we went over some steep hills about 20% grade. We finally got back to the road and it was much better.
After the first water stop we turned on to a gravel road that was fine at first but then became extremely hard to ride on. It quickly became more rocky and loose. It was almost harder to ride down hill then up. At one point I couldn’t even see straight because the bike was shaking so much. My hands were hurting from braking so hard. For a couple of minutes I got off my bike and just walked it because I was so sick of the road. This was the longest gravel road we had to ride on. It was about 18 miles total but we only got to about 15 before we got picked up because of a lightning storm. I was upset that we had to get shuttled but very happy I didn’t have to ride on the gravel road anymore! Of all the states we have been through, the roads of Utah have been the hardest to ride on in terms of gravel and rough roads.
When we got to the church we found out the building was flooded so we tried to help dry the floors. People from the church came over and we ate dinner with them. After dinner we went to our homestays. I was so excited for tonight. Ed and Linda opened their house to 8 of us. They were so generous and their house was beautiful! As soon as we entered the neighborhood we were shocked. It has been such a long time since we were in a neighborhood. When we went into their house it was very obvious as to how long we have been away from a normal life and I’m sure ridiculous looking as we were excited for the simplest things like carpet and beds.
They made us special K bars for dessert and I then took a shower. Its been a while since I had a nice shower. Afterwards I talked with the team and Ed and Linda. I had a really nice time talking with them but it was getting late and we had to get up early the next day so we went to bed.
Our homestay made us a wonderful breakfast: eggs, toast, cantaloupe, bacon and juice. It felt just like being at home. We gave them a hug before we left. None of us wanted to leave. We just wanted to stay there for a while and drive the van to San Francisco. I could not thank them enough for giving a small time of a normal life off the 4K.
The ride today was really nice. I rode with Leah, Darcy, Vince, and Tony. It was mostly flat, a few hills and a lot of down hills. It was a short day so we took our time and enjoyed the ride. In the middle of ride we saw a sign that said Slow Wildfire Ahead. It was a little nerve racking to think we were going to ride through a wildfire. When we continued we saw that the fire had already happened and the entire left side of the mountain was burned.
Today was a hard day to get through. We had 83 miles of nothing but a lot of the same scenery. It became very boring. I was kind of worried because as we got closer to Nevada I knew this is what it would be like for the entire time and I was already tired of this terrain.
In the beginning there was a small uphill with an amazing downhill afterwards. There was nothing around so we could see the road for miles in front of us. It looked really steep but then began to flatten out however it did become steeper to about 6%. I’m not a fan of being able to see what’s ahead especially for miles. It mentally tires me out.
It quickly became hot and windy. My knees began to hurt because of the wind and it wasn’t even very steep. We went through about 3 mountain passes and I was getting really bored and tired.
When we entered the state line we took pictures. We also crossed into pacific time zone. The host was at an inn. We were allowed to camp in the back yard for free but some people paid for a room. I am trying to save money so I decided to camp. As we were setting up the tent we were having trouble and decided it wasn’t necessary to tie the tent down tightly.
After setting up we were all hungry and wanting dinner but there was a miscommunication with the host. Tensions ran high as we realized we didn’t have dinner. People became annoyed that they didn’t have dinner for the night. We worked it out that we were each allowed to have one slice of pizza. If we were still hungry there was peanut butter and bread in the host van.
It wasn’t long after dinner that we realized it was a mistake to not tie down the tent because a storm was coming. When we were in the tent getting ready for bed it was blowing everywhere. I was just laying there hoping the storm would pass quickly as the wind was blowing strong and water was coming in through the tent. Eventually the storm calmed down enough that I could fall asleep without worrying about what could happen.
We arrived in South Lake Tahoe last night. The view is beyond amazing! And we are all unbelievably happy to be out of Nevada and finally in California! Thank you so much to our wonderful hosts (the Feltons!), especially for the beautiful dinner on the beach. It was very nice to have some time to relax and just enjoy our last few nights together as a team.
While our physical journey comes to an end, our battle to fight cancer has not. In particular, my thoughts and prayers go out to Jake and his family. I was very surprised at how much Jake inspired and touched my life, despite never having met him. If Jake can be brave, then I have no excuse to not have courage. As long as there are people suffering from cancer in this world, I have work to do, because no one and no family deserve to battle cancer. Life may be unbelievably unfair at times, but it is in those times that we must be strong and not give up hope.
Please keep Jake and his family in your thoughts and prayers.
“There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle.” –Robert Alden
We got into host which turned out to be the St. Joseph’s Indian School. My mother and to a much greater extent, my aunt, have been donors to the wonderful work of this school. It was really cool to see this place in person, especially not knowing that I was going to be seeing it.]]>
The rest of the ride was fairly brutal. The headwinds were relentless and we were all dead when got to Wall Drug (for those unfamiliar, think of Wall Drug as South Dakota’s answer to South of the Border). However, we all carried on since we are apparently all really good at doing that by now. The ride eventually started to clear up and we rode a long stretch of rolling hills into Rapid City. It was definitely a day where we were glad to get into host.]]>
However, it turned out a good day given the scenery and fun riding in sections.]]>
On the ride itself we were given the freedom to do pretty much whatever we wanted. I hoped to get to Kalispell and see some of the sights there, so I went by myself and made my way to our destination first, while other groups stayed back in Whitefish for breakfast or to do other things. The distance reminded me of my first training ride with a 4K group in the spring. We rode about fifteen miles in Howard County, and I thought this to be a considerable distance at the time. It’s amazing to see how far my perceptions of bike riding have come. I was able to complete it in less than an hour, and I arrived in a park in the center of town with plenty of energy to spare.
After relaxing for an hour or two, I headed out for a short tour of the town. I went down a few streets looking for a bike shop, but it turned out that the two they have in Kalispell were closed on Sundays. One surprise I found was an arts festival set up in another park. They had dozens of stands set up to sell all kinds of paintings, sculptures, and knick-knacks, not to mention great food. I especially enjoyed the food trucks from several local businesses. I had a massive “Going-to-the-Sun” burger (a giant slab of beef with cheddar cheese, smoked bacon, and a fried egg), close to a perfect meal and topped off with a fried Snickers bar (one of the best foods I’ve tried fried). We were also treated to great music and a relaxing summer ambiance. As an artist sung about his impressions of Montana, I felt there were few other places I would rather be than here taking a wonderful day off.
After having spent some time at the arts festival, I went to our host to relax for a while more. We’re staying at Kalispell’s firehouse, a new experience for us. The people who work there have important things to do, so we’ve been trying not to get in their way, but they’ve been accommodating and friendly. We took our bikes and luggage through the giant open bay doors and past firetrucks and ambulances to a classroom they use for various educational presentations. We’ve also been able to use the lounge area the firefighters use when they’re on call. It’s been a great place to stay in Kalispell, not the least because of the luxurious showers and the proximity to a lot of stores across the street. Now that we’re in a sizable town, I was able to get some supplies that I’ve been needing, such as tire patches and extra tubes. There are also plenty of restaurants around, something that whetted my appetite even as we were passing through here a couple of days ago. Unfortunately, a lot of managers aren’t in on Sundays, so it’s been difficult to get food donations. I hope that tomorrow’s food crew will have more luck getting us tasty things to eat.
Overall, it’s been an easy, meandering day of rest and exploration. Tomorrow we pick up our west-bound ride as we go to Libby. After today everyone should be well-refreshed and ready to enjoy our last full day in Montana.]]>
Today’s ride was the longest I’ve had since returning to the bike, but it didn’t seem too difficult at all. We’re still seeing mountains, but we’ve crossed the majority of the Rockies, so the elevation and climbing aren’t too much of an issue anymore. The most noticeable thing we passed through was a sizable portion of national forest. The pine trees by the side of the road rose up all around us in some stretches; coming from Maryland, I’m not used to seeing such tall forests, which extend for miles, up and over the mountains that we’ve been passing between. Even in terms of the smell of pine (both from logging trucks passing by and, ostensibly, the forests themselves), the woods of Montana have been a sight to see and smell in and of themselves.
For our lunch the van crew was lucky enough to scout out a spot in the middle of Libby Creek, a wonderfully scenic area. We had to cross a little water to get there, but it was worth it to be able to eat lunch in such a pristine valley, with fresh Montana water flowing around us (we were on a rocky island in the middle of the creek). They brought ice cream, fruit, and a bunch of other treats that made the day so much more enjoyable. This stop made the ten miles we had to ride after lunch seem like nothing.
Tonight we’re staying at Libby High School, whose mascot is the Libby Loggers. It’s been neat seeing the enormous axes that serve as their school icon; few other school mascots I’ve seen are as hardcore yet connected to the cultural ecology of the region as Libby’s. They’ve provided us with plenty of room on their wrestling mats (very soft) to sleep on during the off season.
In addition to staying at the high school, several people at the United Methodist Church kindly prepared dinner for us. We enjoyed a full potato bar, chili, and ice cream and cookies for dessert. We also got to speak with a few cancer survivors who provided so much support for us. Another unique thing we saw was the guest book that the church members encouraged us to sign. We got to see names from visitors from across the country, including last year’s 4K group, which came through exactly one year ago today. Hopefully next year’s Seattle team will be able to look back on our names inscribed there, too.
Tomorrow we’re expecting to have another long day into Sandpoint, our only stop in Idaho. Originally we were scheduled to ride some eighty miles along highway 2, which we took today to get to Libby. However, an avid cyclist we talked to at dinner suggested we take another route (the southern as opposed to the northern route around the mountains that separate us from Sandpoint) that is safer–with better shoulders and less traffic–but which will add a few miles. I’m just glad we’ll be able to spend a little more time in Montana, which has been one of the best places we’ve passed through, even when the going’s been tough.]]>
The day’s excitement came even before we crossed over into Idaho. At dinner last night the people from the church told us that we had to see the Swinging Bridge just outside of town. It was on our route, so today we decided to stop and see it around mile ten. It’s a wood-and-rope bridge built over the raging Kootenai River, which has an impressive water fall that reminded me of the power of Niagara Falls earlier in the trip, only on a smaller scale. Although purposely shaky, the bridge got us to the other side safely, and stunning views were available in all directions from the bridge itself. It felt precarious stepping out onto an unsteady surface at such great heights, but from what we could tell the bridge was well-kept.
Our adventures in the last part of Montana didn’t end there. For the first water stop, Spencer and Eric parked the van at the top of a moderately long hill and decided to begin construction on a 4K flag. By the time our group got there Spencer had already finished gluing 4K cards together to form a flag, while Eric was completing a giant flagpole out of sticks and ties. Before we left they triumphantly raised the team flag, accompanied by glorious bagpipe music to encourage riders over the top of the climb.
Finally, though, our time in Montana came to a close as we passed into Idaho, the (sadly) penultimate state of our route. As we came zooming down a hill in our highest gears across the state line, an idea came to me to make the ride more interesting. I’ve been feeling great lately, especially yesterday and today, and I thought I’d try my hand at a challenge for the state of Idaho. Given that I was already in my highest gear, I decided to attempt to stay there for an entire state (admittedly not a very difficult thing, considering we’re only in Idaho for two days). The tough part about being in a really high gear is that it can provide quite a lot of resistance, especially going up hills. I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to keep it up, but the hills in Idaho have been rather moderate so far, so I was able to complete the whole day in my highest gear. It added a lot of fun (and a little soreness) to the ride, and tomorrow I’ll see if I can finish the whole state that way.
We continued our trend of having our lunch stop by beautiful creeks. Everyone was able to relax by the water or in the shade while we feasted on pizza, sandwiches, and, most important of all, tacos from Jack-in-the-Box, the first time we’ve encountered one along the trip. We are now decidedly in the land of West Coast fast-food cuisine, where we see restaurants that aren’t available back East, like Jack.
After lunch we made our way through some construction and a few more miles to our destination at Sandpoint. We are staying at a church, where a number of people from the community have put together a dinner for us, as well. One of the first things they told us was to see the lake at City Beach. Sandpoint lies on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille, one of the largest freshwater lakes in this part of the country and home to one of the highest-rated places to live. Everyone was adamant that we visit the shore and were even willing to drive us there, so we hopped in a few of their cars and made our way over. I feared that the lake would be overhyped, considering how excited they were about it, but it didn’t disappoint. Surrounded by mountains and a small harbor, the lake is picturesque in its clarity, color, and freshness. When we waded in, we could see our feet the whole time; it must have been the clearest natural body of water I’ve ever been in. It was amazing to be able to swim in the cool, clean water after a long day of riding. We have to thank our hosts for encouraging us to come as soon as possible.
It was also refreshing to talk to Ms. Helen, the woman who drove our group to the beach. She was so full of life and excited to show us the lake for the first time that we couldn’t help but smile. She also expressed a great appreciation for our cause. As a recent cancer survivor, she understands the toll it can take, and she wished us luck in our fight to raise money for cancer support. I’m so glad the 4K has given us the opportunity to meet upbeat people like her; she inspired us all and gave us another reason to continue our fight.
After we got back from the lake, our hosts cooked a wonderful dinner of lasagna, salad, and homemade cookies. They had obviously spent a lot of time preparing for our arrival, and they even had a menu and labels written up for the food they presented. It’s become a special treat to have such a nice dinner at the end of a day, and everyone was excited to take part in tonight’s wonderful meal.
So far Idaho has made quite an impression on us; it’s hard to believe that tomorrow we’ll leave here and cross over into the last state of our trip. Whether my attempt to ride the whole state in my highest gear succeeds or not, it’s definitely been an unforgettable experience to pass through here on our way to Washington.]]>
We crossed the seventy-five miles from Sandpoint, Idaho, to Spokane, Washington, in excellent time, especially considering that we were traveling at a slow but steady pace and flat tires abounded. We thought we had to be into the host by two o’clock, so we made sure not to spend too much time waiting around or stopping at places along the way. Ultimately we didn’t have to get in early, but we still arrived in the early afternoon, which gave us the rest of the day to relax and see the city.
Since it turned out to be a slow and rather ordinary day, I decided to do my best to make it more interesting. Starting the day, I was already on the top-gear challenge, in which I had to stay in my highest gear for the whole state of Idaho. I was able to do that without trouble, and I finished strong in top gear as we crossed the border into Washington. (We took a huge number of pictures in front of the sign marking the entrance into our destination state.) After entering Washington I stayed in my highest gear in order to make the ride more interesting, and I decided to up the ante by trying our riding with one foot only. I must have looked ridiculous riding along the highway with my left foot resting casually on the top of my bike instead of helping my right to pedal, but it was all in good fun, and it broke up our longish ride.
Once we got in to the host, we were able to have a quick bite to eat before heading off to showers, which have been donated by the local YMCA. A nice thing about YMCAs is that they have provided a consistent service for our group along the way; whenever we see one, we know that we’ll have a consistently refreshing experience, with towels and driers for our washed bike clothes. Afterward I was able to see a little of the downtown area, but not much before heading back to the host to get a few more naps in. Most of the areas of Spokane I saw today were part of the commercial corridors that surround the highway entrances to the city, so I didn’t see much besides the usual litany of fast-food restaurants and other shops. It will be nice tomorrow to see more of what the area has to offer that’s off the beaten path as we enjoy the last rest day before finishing in Seattle.]]>
The day started fairly early for me, since I got a fair amount of my sleeping done earlier last night. (Plus, I’m so accustomed to getting up at 5:00 and 6:00 that it’s difficult to wake up later.) After I checked some emails, Liz, Marc, Lindsay, and I walked to Frank’s Diner, a great restaurant a few blocks from where we’re staying that occupies a converted railroad car. It was rather crowded, but by sheer luck we were given the best table in the house: a private area in what looked to be the converted caboose. During its heyday the car had been used to carry the president of one of the main railroad companies and was then converted into a restaurant that sat in Seattle. In 1991 it was moved to Spokane, where we caught up with it. The breakfast we ordered was amazing, some of the best diner food I’ve tasted. I had a breakfast burger with a little bit of everything on it, while others had huckleberry waffles, biscuits and gravy, and smorgasbord platters. Our waitress, Ms. Gage, was a treat to meet (and an award-winner for her exceptional service, it turned out). She was incredibly outgoing and more than willing to share the best places to see in Spokane; she really made our day.
After breakfast we headed out to see some of the city’s sights and to get more accouterments from the local athletic store. As we passed over the bridge that brought us into the downtown area, I noticed for the first time that a beautiful waterfall, Spokane Falls, could be seen over the eastern side. When we were riding into the city yesterday, I had no idea that such a majestic sight was just around the corner because I was so intent on maintaining a fast pace in order to keep up with traffic. Now we had the change to gaze over the river and see the falls in their own right.
Once we got back to the host I took a few hours to finish up a few more chores that I needed to get done for the day. Afterward, though, just as late afternoon was creeping up, I was able to get out and go for a run, the first time I’ve been able to run on the trip. I had wanted to run in Chicago but didn’t wake up early enough, and after my injury I figured it wouldn’t be such a good idea. Today, though, everything was perfect: I had an hour before dinner, and the city beckoned. I ended up running six miles through the heart of downtown and then across the river and up toward the famous Gonzaga University. Along the way I wound my way through the old world’s fair grounds that Ms. Gage had told us about and a few other nice urban trails. It was strange running after so long on the bike, and certain muscles weren’t as well developed as others that I use everyday on the 4K. Still, it was great to have a change of pace and to see the city from a whole new perspective. I was pretty tired by the end, but it was definitely worth the effort.
When I got back, we were just about ready to have dinner with a community group. Over the past few weeks we’ve been keeping in touch with pen pals at a summer camp in Spokane. These kids are really interested in what we’re doing and have been quite supportive, so it was a treat to get to meet them in person. My pen pal, Sam, had a good number of questions about our trip, and it was neat to be able to share our experiences with him.
We enjoyed a wonderful cookout dinner with the kids and their parents. In all several dozen people showed up, and it served as a great community get-together, not just a 4K presentation, although we were certainly part of the festivities. As part of their camp, some of the kids had put together a short play about the case of a stolen dog named Waffles. In the form of a true courtroom procedural, the young thespians interrogated one another on the witness stand, all leading up to a shocking denouement. It was fun to see their hard work pay off before a sizable audience of both parents and strangers.
Tomorrow we have another fairly long day, this time into Grand Coulee. We’ve had a pretty good opportunity to rest and relax (our last before reaching Seattle); I just hope that my run today doesn’t make me too sore for the ride ahead. Even if it does, we seem so close that it seems pure momentum could carry us the rest of the way to the finish line.]]>
The tiny town of Escalante welcomed us with wide open arms after what was easily our hardest day of climbing yet. We supposedly gained over 8000 feet of elevation had one stretch of climb that lasted over 23 miles! We had dinner in the city park pot luck style, and the entire community was invited to come join. A wonderful woman named Harriet organized both our dinner and our breakfast the following morning. We rode out with two great cyclists named Steve and John who joined us for the first few miles of the day and shared tons of great stories with us from their thousands of miles on the road.
We spent the next two days bouncing through Bryce Canyon and Zion national Parks. We got to sleep in a brand new fire house in Bryce Canyon and I saw my first rodeo right across the street. The town was a hell of a tourist trap, but the gorgeous views more than made up for it. Zion was one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my entire life. The magnitude of the wide open spaces and enormous rock formations was breathtaking. We passed through Zion into a large city called Saint George for a rest day. A few of us decided to stay up quite a bit later than usual to see the midnight premier of The Dark Night Rises (a most excellent film that should be seen by everyone). My rest day was quite exciting because I was able to get my first haircut in over two months! As pictures and my teammates will tell you, my hair was a bit out of control and needed to be dealt with quite badly.
Our ride to Cedar City was interesting, involving 17 miles of the horrible gravel road and a massive storm that flooded our host, threw down enough hail to stop traffic temporarily, and caused a rather large dust devil (we have pictures to prove it!). The host for the evening more than made up for our bad day on the road. We had our first homestay of the trip. Cheema and I were lucky enough to stay with a lovely lady named Vaunda who offered us showers, laundry, and our own rooms and beds for the first time since May 26! I’ve never been so excited for something so simple in my entire life. Priorities definitely get reshuffled out here.
We had an easy ride of just over 50 miles from Cedar City to Milford, where we stayed in the high school and spent our afternoon lounging in a social studies classroom. The local lions club treated us all to dinner at Subway, which was greatly appreciated by the entire team.
The ride from Milford over the border to Baker, NV was beautiful, but amazingly desolate. A local from Milford joked to us that the loneliest road in America might be US-50, but we’ll see less cars on the road to Baker. She was definitely right. Baker has a population of less than 60, and the one restaurant in town had to buy extra supplies to make sure they’d have enough to feed our entire team. We spent most of the evening shooting pool at the only bar in town and watched an amazing thunderstorm roll in and soak all of our tents. Thank god for waterproofing!
I was on van duty for the ride back to civilization in Ely. The day was complicated by a complete lack of cell service, but we were able to keep tabs all of the riders by driving up and down the group every time we set a water stop. Everyone reached White Pine Hgh School in high spirits, and we enjoyed a donated buffet dinner at the Jailhouse hotel and casino. The team had a quiet evening at the host, and we all shared the contents of our mail drop care packages.
Our ride from Ely to Eureka was wonderfully peaceful. I spent most of the day bouncing around groups and rode alone for part of the day to reflect on the trip a bit and get some thinking done. Eureka is only slightly larger than Baker, but has quite a bit more to offer in terms of food and drink. We had an awesome donated dinner at Sloppy Joe’s Diner, named for a local young man who tragically died from complications of juvenile diabetes last year. The restaurant is owned by Joe’s family and is dedicated to raising fund for the juvenile diabetes research foundation. They heard about our ride and were more than happy to support another cause dedicated to helping young adults through difficult times. It’s nice to find people even in tiny towns like Eureka who want to support the 4K.
I’ll try my best to get at least two more posts up before the end of the trip. It’s unreal that we ony has 9 days left on the road. Please excuse any glaring errors in my spelling or grammar. Most of this post was composed on the tiny screen of my phone, which doesn’t allow for much proofreading. Thanks for all of your continued support. We’re only 9 days from the West Coast and you helped make it possible!
Cycle, Inspire, Unite.
I cannot believe there are only 11 days left. I remember when we used to count the days, instead of counting down. Sometimes I realize what I am actually doing; sleeping on random floors in churches and schools, not knowing when (or what) my next meal or shower is going to be. Though I am unbelievably homesick at times, and it does get frustrating a lot of times to be with the same 28 people 24/7, I know that I am forever changed by my experiences on the 4K. I have learned to be more patient, forgiving, and loving. I used to be very cynical about people, but I have met so many people on this trip who have changed my mind. My teammates have also inspired me to be a better person; there are so many wonderful people on this trip who I look up to.
Casey, Cali, Alex, and I walked down to a lake and sat on its banks for a while, then we stopped by a bar on the way back. The bartender was very nice and bought us a round after finding out what our cause was. She had survived bone cancer at a young age. Her story involved a lot of pain and struggle, but she overcame the adversity and it was quite inspirational to hear her story. She also told me about her doctor, who treated her completely free of charge.
We had a rest day the next day, so a few us went out and explored the town. I got a free shirt at a bar, which was exciting for the sole fact that it meant I had something clean.
We got up pretty early the next day to do some bike maintenance, as usual. Most of us went to a retirement home to visit with the residents. We met some really cool people who had a lot to tell us about the history of Mitchell and some of the nearby cities. It was especially cool hearing about the ones we had gone through or would be going through.
Mitchell had been built up for us by the alumni of last year’s trip because it is home to the Corn Palace. They told us it was one of the highlights of the trip and that it was really cool. Either they are easily entertained or they are great practical jokesters. There was nothing exciting about the Corn Palace. It was corn. Honestly, I think we were fools to fall for the idea that corn could be exciting. Good job, Team Seattle 2011.
The moment I stepped outside, I knew it was going to be a challenging day after getting bitten by two mosquitoes within 5 minutes. I sat there debating on whether it was too early to put on sunscreen or not. 5:30. I sat on the bench looking at the digital clock on my cellphone, thinking about what I could be doing during this terribly early time of the day if I wasn’t on this 70-day trip. I’d probably be comfortably rolling around in my bed and dreaming until 12 PM. Just the thought of it made me smile to myself but my thoughts were suddenly disturbed by one of the ride directors yelling, “CIRCLE UP IN 5 MINUTES!!!!!” And then I realized, 33 more days left. Wow.
When we finished our cheer and finished pumping up our tires, we rode off into the unlit road ahead of us. Some riders with headlights were more fortunate but most of us were not really sure of what was ahead. I remember crossing a bridge and getting attacked by mosquitoes. I remember stopping for one of my team mates and getting attacked by mosquitoes. I remember staring off into the lovely scenery in front of me and getting attacked by mosquitoes. I remember stopping at a gas station and getting attacked by mosquitoes. MOSQUITOES, MOSQUITOES, AND MORE MOSQUITOES. They were ravenous and preying on our skin continuously throughout the morning.
Getting attacked first thing in the morning made my pace grow slower each mile of the way. I could feel my lungs desperately grasping every opportunity to fill itself with air and pumping harder and faster after every hill. Before we were at the first water stop, the sun began to rise and the sky suddenly transformed from a dark blue into a soft shade of orange. For a couple seconds, I forgot about the mosquitoes.
This was only the beginning. I decided that I would count the cracks on the ground to keep my mind off of any pain throughout the day.
After hundreds of cracks and searching for any trace of chalk on the ground, we turned onto the main road and I shortly figured out that the mosquitoes were the last thing we had to worry about. I didn’t know what it was at first. The road grew…crunchier. It was scattered with…something that I couldn’t figure out until somebody screamed, “EW!” My face dropped after I found out I was riding through a road full of grasshoppers. They were everywhere.
First, I tried to ignore it by staring at anything BUT the road, which was, quite frankly, an extremely difficult task. I couldn’t help but look down every time a few of the grasshoppers got stuck in the momentum of my wheel. I cringed, not because I was upset about killing them, but because the thought of grasshopper guts all over my bike made me want to throw up the cereal, banana, and bagel I ate for breakfast (can’t risk losing carbs!). And then before I knew it, I became a victim of a grasshopper attack by the biggest one of them all. It jumped and aimed directly at my face. It made eye contact with me before it pitifully fell back onto the ground…but it freaked me out to the point it made me twist, turn, and helplessly fall into a pile of more grasshoppers. Awesome.
After being traumatized and riding far away from the grasshoppers, I had to face two of my favorite things in the world: heat and hills. They were relentless. The sun worked with the rolling hills to drain the energy and happiness out of my soul. The sun’s rays beat down onto my skin and blinded my eyes as I painfully climbed to the top of every hill. Hill after hill after hill after hill. It was easy for me to look out into the distance from a top of a hill, discover even more hills, and dread going the next 5 miles. After 110 miles of blood, sweat, and tears (literally), we finally arrived at the host.
I yelled, “I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE TODAY” to the first person I saw as I rolled in. She told me we had about a mile until we reached the church we were sleeping in so bolted there in a heartbeat, jumped off of my bike, threw off my helmet, and slumped into a cold, metal chair inside. I was dazed and frustrated by exhaustion. I sat for a couple of minutes, disgusted by the smell of my own sweat before one of the lovely helpers pleasantly offered me a glass of lemonade, filled with a handful of refreshing ice.
I held onto that cup and gulped the drink down like it was the last beverage of my life and then poured myself another cup while thinking, “Hm…I guess today wasn’t too bad.”]]>
Sunrise over the Badlands.
Climb to the top of the Badlands.
Made another friend.]]>
The next day was only 60 miles so Jose and I decided to do water van duty to get it out of the way. Our host that night was legit. We stayed at this rec center that had an indoor water park equipped with slides and diving cliffs! It was like a mini six flags. I took the go pro in with me, hoping to upload photos when we have internet again. That night we were invited to this womans ranch to see the sunset. We were out in the middle of no where! She had to meet us on the dirt road and drive us to her ranch because you can’t get a signal. I felt like I was on another planet because we were so far away from civilization. The stars that night were wild! I have never seen the little dipper so clear before. We saw sattelites, shooting stars and even the milky way. The lack of service made the evening even more special because we were forced to be in the moment and enjoy the scenery around us. Oh yeah… and I got to ride a horse bareback.
From Gillette to Buffalo I rode with Sam, Caiti, Spencer and Eric, our first day groups. The ride was a piece of cake and we arrived just in time for the blue grass festival. That night we didn’t have a host and were planning on camping in a park but Spencer saved the day and found a church for us to stay at, which was clutch because the next day we had to bike Big Horn mountain.]]>
My grandfather also sent me some chocolate chip cookies. Let me just take the time to share with the world his secret recipe to baking cookies. First you need the pre made cookies because they taste better. Then you turn the oven on and plop them in, no pre heating necessary. That is the secret step everyone ignores. Wait until they are done baking and that ladies and gentlemen is how chocolate chip cookies should always be made… it’s what I like to call the secret Lowry recipe. My grandmother also sent me a key chain in the package of my dog. They both seem to know my soft spots pretty well!]]>
This was from a while back but I definitely thought it was pretty fitting for today. I ended up taking 3 beautiful naps today. You know the ones where you wake up and have drool halfway down your arm?! Yep, 3 times today. Two of which were on the side of the road and the other was in a parking lot. I didn’t even take my helmet off. Waking up at 4 on only 6 hours of sleep and being expected to ride 104 miles will do that to you. Then there was the hail pelting us from every direction on our way down the mountain at 40mph. Today was definitely one of the more mentally demanding days so far. Tomorrow is a short day, only 75 miles. Ohh hahaha before I forget…. tonight we had pasta for dinner. Of course there wasn’t a strainer and of course I was given the duty of straining the pasta. Next thing I know I am looking down at a sink full of pasta. James and I quickly scooped all of the pasta back in the pot and acted like nothing happened. Ooopsies.]]>
My climbing buddy Cali and I at the top of Big Horn.
Rode over the Continental Divide yesterday.]]>
Words to live by.
You know you are out west when…
Pink tape for my pedal pal, my aunt and my grandmother.]]>
I found out that Adventure Cycling’s headquarters is located in Missoula and followed the cyclists on the touring bikes around town until I found it. There was a magical glow radiating from the building. The handles on the doors were even made out of handlebars from a road bike. When we walked in we were told we could grab free ice cream, soda and co2 cartridges. I thought I was in heaven. Adventure Cycling’s mission is to inspire and empower people to travel by bike. Who wouldn’t support an organization with a mission like that?!]]>
It is a little blurry “It’s difficult to follow your dreams. But, it’s a tragedy not to.” Found that at a local outdoor store.]]>
Later on in the afternoon we thought it would be pretty cool to go tubing. So we crammed 15 people and 15 tubes in the van. How we did that I have no idea. We have a hard time getting 15 people in the van on any given day, how we managed to fit 15 people and 15 tubes baffles me. Below are some images of our van. Johnny was pressed against the roof of the van, Caiti was in the front seat with a tube around her, other people were laying on top of other people squished in between tubes. It was pretty funny, but the smell… ohhh the smell of the van was horrendous. Tubes, sweaty bodies and feet. It was pretty gross.
I sat on the wheel well facing backwards (where Emily’s right foot is).
Casey wondering how he is going to get in the van.
Chelsea and I on the water. After we finished tubing we had to book it back to the place where we had rented the tubes, drop them off and then head to the church for dinner. If we were even a minute late we were afraid we were going to get van duty so Caiti and I ran all the way back to the church and had exactly one minute to spare. Dinner was wonderful and consisted of pasta, salad and bread. That night I headed off to bed, my couch, pretty early to prepare for our ride to Polson.
Polson was a bit of a blur, probably because I didn’t get to sleep on a couch, but I do remember eating edible flowers for dinner.]]>
Day 56: Twin Falls to Mountain Home ID. Expected Mileage: 95mi Actual Mileage: 117mi
Today we save a kitty from the engine bay of a Prius. For a while we couldn’t see where in the hood the kitty was; all we could hear was an occasional little “meow”. The tiny kitten was terrified and it took a bit of peanut butter and a lot of patience to get it out. After our rescue operation we continued to bike until we hit a long gravel road. Unfortunately we had to backtrack several miles due to routing issues and we ended up riding 117 miles instead of the expected 95. The last 20 miles was harsh; it was over 100 degrees and we had a strong headwind pushing us back…not the mention the numerous times we climbed in and out of the SAME canyon…. but Team Meow persevered and at the end the of day we were rewarded with the satisfaction of saving a kitty! Please visit our newly purchased domain 4kforkittens.org!]]>
Today I rode with Matt, Jasper, Trish, and Andrea. Whereas for the past few days there had been some nice farmland, today felt like we were back in Wyoming. We were on yet another desolate road through the desert, with sagebrush all around us. Jasper and I agreed that it was another road straight out of “Wristcutters: A Love Story”, a great little indie flick that I highly recommend.
We are staying at a high school today, and I chatted for a while with the kind principal who let us in about his trips to Hawaii. We showered at a campground by the Snake River, and I chatted with a few local kids about our trip. They seemed very impressed and asked all sorts of questions about our experience. I jumped in the river for a brief swim and learned an important lesson: when diving into a body of water with your bib on, make sure that you keep your shoulder straps up!
A bunch of us went out for fro-yo (you can tell that some kind of frozen treat is an almost daily necessity for us), and Sophie and I finished watching “District 9″. Also a good flick.]]>
For the first time ever this whole trip, I was in the lunch van. I didn’t mind much, as I hadn’t driven in a long time. Also, I would rather drive for a short day (it was only 38 miles), so I can do the 97 mile day to Mountain Home.
Sidni and I kicked ass getting food for the team. We even got us a donation at some fancy restaurant overlooking the gorge of the Snake River. However due to a miscommunication, we thought they were providing us 10 free meals to 10 people, however they had thought that we would bring the entire team of 27 and then they would comp us 10. Oh, well. We got a 50% discount and the food was delicious.
Everyone had biked their butts off in order to get to the matinee showing of “Dark Knight Rises” which I thoroughly enjoyed. Sophie and I did a quick core session, and then our hosts served us a wonderful dinner. After that we checked ut Shoshone Falls, “the Niagra Falls of the west”. Quite Lovely.]]>
Yesterday was relaxing, since we weren’t going very fast, and there were not many hills at all. Today I was in a really fast group, and I grew tired pretty early in the ride. I was able to maintain a decent speed going up the moderate hills, but I felt worn out by the top of each one. The thin air (and my inexperience biking in it) might have had something to do with it, but our incessant speed was probably another factor. It’ll take a little while to build up to where I was, but I’m glad that I can at least keep up, even if it’s somewhat tiring for my legs. A number of other riders mentioned that it was a surprisingly tough day for them, too, so it might not have been just me, either.
Adding to the frustrations of the day, we got off the highway to follow an adjacent bike path. When the path veered from the main road, though, we ended up going too far north and had to turn around to get to the water stop; thus we added a few extra miles to our route. A couple of people in our group also got flat tires, and we had to stop to fix them. In the city of Kalispell, one of the bigger towns in the area, we were considering stopping at a bike shop, and I was planning to pick up a few things I’ve been needing, but we didn’t have time with our detour, so I’ll have to wait until we come back to this town to get them. (As it turns out, our next stop after our day in Glacier is Kalispell; we’ll be going back literally the way we came.) All of these obstacles and petty disappointments added to my frustration of how the ride was going.
Still, there were a few positive things that helped make the day more pleasant. For one, our forty-mile water stop was at a Dairy Queen that gave us each a free ice cream cone. It was also fun racing down the hills that I struggled to get to the top of. This was the first time I’ve gone fast since getting back on the bike, and while I was conscious of doing it as safely as possible, it was still a rush to zoom down the highway like that.
We are now staying at a Lutheran church in Whitefish, Montana. Originally we were scheduled to stay in Glacier National Park, but at the last minute we changed our host city to Whitefish, a town some miles west of the giant park, in order not to have to backtrack even further. We’ll still have our time in Glacier, but we’ll sleep on the outskirts. After some deliberation this evening, people decided what they wanted to do in the park over the next two days. One group left to go camping in the park. Tomorrow they’ll meet up with a few more people to go for a bike ride up one of the more difficult and famous paths in the park. It’s said to be extremely challenging, and it should be a lot of fun for them. I was considering going, but I figured I could use a less strenuous rest day before continuing the ride on Sunday. The last group, including me, will go exploring in East Glacier, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’m incredibly excited about seeing some of the big horn sheep and, hopefully, some of the glaciers (before they melt over the next few decades). In the afternoon all groups will reunite to go white water rafting, which we got at a discount and are using our team-building money to pay for. I’ve never done anything like that, either, so it should be a really adventurous excursion.
Even though today was harder than I expected, it sounds like it wasn’t just me who was having difficulty with some of these hills. Every day on the 4K is a surprise, and we know that not everything goes according to plan every day. We’ve just learned to take the good and the bad of each day in stride as we enjoy the journey as a whole and push toward Seattle.]]>
General logistics: We have been waking up anywhere between 4 AM and 6:30 AM and biking between 40-odd miles and 117 miles. I wake up at the same time as 3 other riders, which is slightly before everyone else. Because of this as well as my throat singing skills, I have been dubbed “The Rooster,” and it is usually my job to wake everyone up. It takes us 2 hours from the time we wake up until the time we leave every morning. Depending on the day, we arrive at the host between 2 PM and 9:30PM which makes the variation in time spent on the saddle very unpredictable from day-to-day.
Riding: We average 70-80 miles per day. In the start of the trip I weighed 230 pounds and struggled, yet succeeded every day. The first few weeks were much harder than the riding is now. Our average speed went from less than 10 miles per hour in the beginning to approximately 15-20 miles per hour now. I have lost 25 pounds and now weigh 205—pretty crazy but not very surprising. Now a short day is 60 miles and pretty much everyone finishes every day. I have learned a lot about geography, corn, and soy throughout the ride.
My personal high for the trip in terms of riding was the 117 mile day from Chicago to Sterling, Illinois. That day was the beginning of “DYLF.” Don’t ask me what it means, but that is our team name. We left at 7AM from the CBS studio after being featured around 6:20AM on the news. We rode through 35 miles per hour headwinds the entire day, which were at a slight angle and prevented us from effectively riding in a formation. When the trucks rode by in the opposite direction, the gusts of wind blew pebbles at us which stung every time. Our average speed was between 6 and 10 miles per hour. We saw the sun rise and we saw the sun set on our bikes, as my group got in at 9:30pm. Despite the fact that we all were a little insane at the 100 mile mark, we kept riding and completed the day. The moment we got to the church and had the spaghetti and meat sauce, I felt more accomplished than at any other point in my entire life.
People: The 4k is not entirely about biking—Along the way I have met several amazing people. One person I met, Jerry, was finishing up his cancer treatment at the Hope Lodge in Lexington, Kentucky. I met him early on in the morning and shared several cups of coffee with him and got a chance to learn all about him and his struggles. Once he got a cancerous tumor on his face and it spread throughout his body, his entire family acted as if he had the plague and completely ex-communicated him. He has been working as a gas station employee for decades and has been facing his cancer all alone, with no support group. I invited him into the morning circle and dedicated numerous rides to him. He was so grateful and happy to have someone care enough about him to engage him in conversation and dedicate a ride to him—it really touched me. All I have been doing is riding my bike and talking to people along the way. It is amazing how people respond to someone writing names on their legs and pedaling for a few hours. I am so grateful to be in good health and to be able to do this ride. I love the 4k and have made more friends in the past 53 days than I made in all of college.]]>
As it turns out we’re now on an Adventure Cycling route, so we’ve run into some pretty cool cyclists along our way. Some of the people we’ve met on the road today are camping here in Wisdom tonight. They’ve been chill, helpful, and fun to ride beside.
Tonight, after making a pasta dinner, we laid out in a roofless structure across the street to watch the night sky. It was nice to just lay out under the stars and gaze, letting the mind wander from light to light, tracing the deep purple sky.
By 12 am I was content and decided to move back inside before I got too cold. I’m tired from today’s long ride and will certainly sleep well.
Today was dedicated to the staff and volunteers from the hospital auction that we met yesterday. They generously fed us and allowed us to speak about our mission. Meeting a cancer survivor there was especially heartwarming.]]>
How do I know Wisdom didn’t make me wiser? Well, I started off this morning by chalking the route east, in the opposite direction. Whoops.
Fortunately the groups recovered quickly, noticed the mistake, and everyone got back on route, and I got back to van duty with Caiti. It was a difficult day for water van–take it from me, miles upon miles between the first group and the last group make things difficult. In the end, we had a water cooler that was left on the side of the road for the front team, while Caiti went back 20 miles to pick me up from the previous water stop (from which the back group was just leaving), stolen. Along with some snacks. Frustrated, with a water cooler down, some snacks gone, and patience short, Caiti and I finished the day successfully. Ending with a donated meal from the Hamilton, MT McDonald’s didn’t hurt either.
It only got better from there. Grace Lutheran Church, our host for the evening, was warm and welcoming, greeting us at their doorstep. They began preparing for dinner while we showered. Dinner was delicious! It was one of the largest dinners we have had yet, with quite a turnout from the community.
|Grace Lutheran Church|
After we slowed down our eating (which took awhile, 27 hungry cyclists eat at a rapid pace for quite sometime) we decided it was the perfect time to go around, introduce ourselves, and talk about why we’re riding the 4K. If I had only known what we were getting ourselves into–the floodgates were opened and soon stories upon stories were pouring forth from ourselves and our hosts, who all had been touched by cancer in someway. And I say “touched” lightly, because many are continually facing cancer throughout the facets of their lives.
The dinner in Hamilton was the heaviest dinner yet, in more ways than one. I have motivation to take me to Seattle and beyond.
|This was only round one. Thank you members of Grace Lutheran Church!|
Today’s efforts were dedicated to Jack Moran, who I pray makes a speedy and full recovery.]]>
Today was the day where we truly began our adventure into the Rocky Mountains. With some special guests on our ride joining us from the community and the Ulman Cancer Fund office, we plunged into the area that gave ‘colorful Colorado’ true definition. The sights we saw were absolutely breathtaking. We began to see the beautiful mountains that everyone always spoke about as well as feel the altitude also mentioned by many. After much climbing and sweating, we approached a lightning storm which drove us to find shelter as quickly as possible. We found our way into an art gallery where the owner graciously let us stay there for a while. Due to the fact that we were waiting for hours and the storm had not subsided, many of us simply passed out on the floor. The final decision made was to shuttle the team due to this adverse weather. We were upset by this because we were only 15 miles away from the host, but it had to be done. Safety is our main priority.
In this art gallery however, I met an older man who asked what all of us were doing. I told him about 4K and he was left speechless. It turned out that this man was a prostate cancer survivor and that hearing our story simply uplifted him.
Cycle, Inspire, Unite.
Day 42: Estes Park-Kremmling: Highest Elevation Yet
Today marked a significant milestone for team San Francisco: we biked the highest paved road in the nation! At 12,000 feet, Trail Ridge Road proved to be a struggle for many of the riders, especially myself. The combination of the altitude and constant steep hills made my knees weak, and my lungs weaker.
Cancer patients can’t give up, neither can we.
Stephanie, my partner for the ride, pushed through the tough inclines with me and eventually made it to the top of the mountain. After lunch at the summit, we began our descent down the mountain, leading me to reach a new top speed: 44.2 mph! The feeling of going down that mountain was the best mix of emotions that I ever felt. I felt free and as if I just defeated the toughest obstacle of my life. It is our duty as 4K riders to ride tough for those who inspire us. I promise followers, I gave it my all.
The last miles of the ride after the mountain were cut short by yet another thunderstorm (I thought Colorado was in a serious drought?) so we weren’t able to finish another day. No worries though, for the mountain was the biggest accomplishment I wanted to achieve for the day.
Day 43: Kremmling- Keystone: Colorado’s Beauty
Short and sweet day today as we only had to complete an easy 45 miles into Keystone. We had the opportunity of staying at one of our fellow rider’s houses as he had property in Colorado. We met his family and were spoiled rotten with amazing cooking and lodging accommodations! The day was highly uneventful as we simply caught up on sleep when we got to the host!
Day 44: Keystone- Salida: Van Duty!
Today actually proved to be an awesome day. I was given the opportunity to drive the host van: one of the two vans that is specifically designed for securing the host and accumulating donations. Between Keystone and Salida were several towns that provided us ample opportunities to ask for food donations. Our most generous donation came from a subway found at a shell gas station in Fairplay, CO. ‘Pam,’ the owner of the entire establishment, listened to our entire story and decided to donate 12 foot long subs to us. We both shared tears as the donation was being prepared.
This woman demonstrated pure generosity. I’m inspired.
We were sure to get a picture with her workers (she was a bit camera shy and her workers were her grandchildren) before we left. I promised her we would never forget her and the giving heart she had.
When we arrived to the host, we were able to meet an amazing group of women that were volunteering at the church in preparing dinner for us. I’ll tell you, the Salida, CO area has some of the most kind and loving people that you will ever meet. After giving a small presentation to this group, we all ate dinner and relaxed for the night. The church here was so incredible, I can’t express it enough.
From these days, I have learned one important thing: that independence and teamwork have their own specific time and place. Certain things, small things, we can learn to overcome on our own–in turn, this will make us stronger. Bigger problems however, will require you to use your teammates in order to overcome an obstacle that may otherwise keep one from attaining all the goals they set for themselves. Between my personal struggles and working with other teammates in their struggles, I have found this lesson to be an important one.
Just when you think you’ve learned enough, you learn something new and valuable.
Stay inspired, friends.
We had a long and nice downhill for a long ways with some more spectacular desert views. I rode with Team Cupcake and friends (Kevin, Dale, and Zach). We met a nice British couple driving through Colorado and Wyoming on an overlook. The woman told us about how her daughter had passed away from cancer and wrote her name on Kevin’s leg.
Lander is a great little town. I bought plastic flowers that clip onto handlebars for my three favorite females on the trip: Ally, Seddy, and Sophie. I got margaritas with a few teammates, and the host provided us with a grill, beer, burgers, and vegetables. Brad and Seddy put together a delicious dinner for us. There was a climbing festival in town starting the next day, but unfortunately the road waits for no one. A few of us went out to the bar that night and sampled the local microbrew. I had a delicious rye. Bradley and I briefly bouldered on the side of a building. On the way back, we all laid in the middle of a deserted street and wondered at all the stars.
Day 46 7/11/12: Lander to Dubois
On the way to Dubois, I rode with Matt, Seddy, Sophie, and Trish. During one period of boredom while riding, we decided to play “Would you rather?” Sophie prefers nice questions to painful or disgusting ones (such as what were used to divide the groups that morning by yours truly), so she asked “Would you rather be the filling or the crust of a pie?” Matt’s response, “Is there milk?” Hilarious.
Unfortunately, Trish was having a hard time with her asthma that day, so we needed to stop a few times, especially at the top of some big hills. At one such hilltop stop, Matt realized that his front shifter cable had popped out of the derailuer. I tried to fix it but was unsuccessful. I probably could have got it eventually, but we saw a storm rolling in, with high winds and lighting steadily getting closer. We put the bikes on one side of the road, and hunkered down on the other side to wait. (A round of “Stand by Me” much improved the mood).
We called the van for a pickup as the weather was looking particularly nasty. It was a little dicey getting all the bikes on top in the heavy winds, but we made it. We drove through a spot of heavy rain, which of course then cleared up to a bright sunny day. By that time, we were only a few miles away from the host, so we decided to just get shuttled the rest of the way into town. I believe we made the right decision, as the weather had looked like it was going to be terrible, however, I was a little jealous that none of the other teams needed to be shuttled. Oh well. The priest at the church where we stayed said that mountain weather can turn on a dime.
We had a spot of ice cream and walked around Dubois, which has endeavored to maintain its historical feel, with wooden sidewalks and buildings that look like they are still part of an old west town.]]>
It all started this morning at 5:30, when we got up to meet our hosts at the Missoula Presbyterian church for a freshly-made breakfast. They had bagels, orange juice, and fresh fruit ready for us as we got ready to head out. It was especially nice having something filling in my stomach before embarking on what I figured would be a personal challenge. We were also treated to virtually ideal weather; while I expected it to be cold starting out, like it’s been the last several days riding through the West, it was actually pleasant when we left, and the rest of the day didn’t get too hot. Thus, as we left Missoula everything was in place to make today a great first day back.
Within ten or twenty miles the mountains that surround the city gave way to an even more majestic range in front of us. Not having ridden for a couple of states, it was breathtaking to see the hills rise up in front of us as we got closer (and not in a car, either). Being out in the open, I felt overwhelmed by the size of the landscape and the beauty of the mountains. In fact, they were a little intimidating at the same time, since I wasn’t sure whether we would have to ride over them. Ultimately we turned before we reached them, and all we had to climb were a couple of relatively small hills that I didn’t have a problem with.
We also got to see a lot of neat things as we passed through the area, something I hadn’t expected at all. There was a land bridge built over the highway for animals to be able to cross safely. I’ve read about them, but I’ve never seen one before today. We also went through the Flathead Indian Reservation, on whose land we’re staying tonight in Polson. A number of the signs were posted in English and Montana Salish, an Indigenous language spoken by some of the residents here.
A number of riders, including me, were able to stop at a shop that sold all things huckleberry about halfway through the ride. Apparently this fruit is fairly popular in the West, since I’ve been seeing tons of huckleberry things since entering Wyoming. (Before the trip I had never even tasted a huckleberry.) We had huckleberry ice cream donated to us, and they sold almost every kind of product with huckleberry imaginable, from honey to jams. It was nice to have such a refreshing treat on my first day back.
Another neat sight was watching Flathead Lake come into the view over the crest of the last hill we climbed as we entered Polson. The town sits at the base of the lake, which is the largest freshwater body of water west of the Mississippi. We were able to enjoy the indescribable view as we cruised into town along a nicely-kept bike path that followed the main highway. Once we got to the lake we had lunch by the shore; it was a celebratory meal for me, since I was glad just to have finished a whole day of riding.
Today has been unforgettable, not only because I made my return to the bike but because of all the amazing things we were able to see along the way. Luckily nothing is hurting, and I feel great so far. All the other riders gave me a ton of support and took great care of me as I made my way back. Now that we have just over two weeks left on the 4K, I’ll have to do everything I can to make sure we live every moment to its fullest from here on. Considering the places we’ll be going in that time, I have no doubt we’ll be able to accomplish just that.]]>
The human mind and body can get used to anything and biking is not an exception. Now that we’re at day 54, I complete my rides with energy in the tank. My plan so far has been to split my new-found vigor between exploring the new vista I’ve arrived in and attempting to relax and rewind.
Off of the top of my head, in the past week or so this strategy has lead me to: hike mountains in search of snow, free rock-climb, explore lava flows, fall asleep in trees, get a couple’s massage, and travel backwards in time.
In conclusion, my teammates that blog consistently are either superhuman or lacking in imagination.
Speaking of teammates, at the moment I’m distracted from writing substantial content by the nearly geriatric bickering of “the village elders”, Yoshi and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (for He fixes our bicycles and angering Him leads to a long, long walk to Portland).
I think I’m going to go read a book now.]]>
There are no words to explain the kind of landscape we see here, and I don’t think my pictures quite capture the beauty either. I am still amazed and so thankful that I have this opportunity to see the United States from this viewpoint. I certainly missed my parents and sister a great deal yesterday, since the last time I went to Zion was with them when I was in middle school. I was also touched by the members of the church we are staying at (SMCC The Springs Church); they went above and beyond at the last minute to welcome us in with open arms.
As the trip begins to wind down to the last few weeks, I have began thinking about “life after the 4K,” namely what I want to do after I graduate from college. Although I have been overwhelmed by the infinite possibilities, it’s clear that service is what I am truly passionate about. The 4K has introduced me to so many different individuals and communities, and inspired me to want to work with communities of people in the field of public health. There is so much to be done in the field of health care, but sometimes what people need is just hope. In our journey this summer, I hope that we have been able to bring hope and inspiration to communities, as well as to ourselves.
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” –Helen Keller
Today was a crazy series of events but a good day with beautiful views. I rode with Sandi, Kelly, and Leah. This is my first day back from being in the van for two days from a cold. I still have my cold but its not bad enough to keep me from riding again. I had to go slower than normal considering I wasn’t 100% and I was really thankful that my team was willing to go at a slower pace. As we were leaving Colorado the scenery reminded me of Kansas again. There were some cornfields and it was mostly flat but we at least have mountains in the background.
When we finally got to the Utah state line we were expecting the big sign that said Life Elevated and had a picture of the arches. Instead we were on a back road with a little monument that was falling apart. Immediately crossing the state line into Utah the road was awful and completely broken up. We rode on it for less than a quarter of a mile before we decided it was not possible to ride on. I was riding and the bike was bouncing so much that I couldn’t see straight. The van drivers went ahead and saw that the road continued to get worse they decided to shuttle. We got shuttled about 20 miles to a road that we could ride on. Even in the van it was really bumpy. I fell asleep for a while which felt really nice since we should have been biking for that entire time.
As soon as we stopped to get dropped off to ride again I looked at the window and saw storm clouds in the direction we were headed. My initial thought was that we were getting shuttled into a storm and would have to be shuttled again. We got our bikes off the van and started riding. It wasnt long before we were right under the storm clouds and it started pouring as we were going down in the canyon. Im not sure if it was because we were riding fast or because it was raining so hard but the rain was hurting my skin. Eventually we stopped under a park sign for the rain to stop. Freezing and huddling together, it didn’t take too long for the storm to pass and we were on way. The farther we got into the canyon the more beautiful the view was. I took so many pictures. I think I spent more time looking at the views and taking pictures than looking at the road. I was really excited to see the Colorado River. We rode along side it for a while. It was gorgeous!
When we were at the bottom of the canyon about to head out we got stopped by the police to be informed that Disney was shooting a Johnny Depp movie and all traffic was stopped for about 15 minutes. The PA guys were really nice and told us about what they were shooting, although we didn’t get to see any action. At first I thought it was really cool and interesting but we had to stop about 5 times and after a while I was getting tired of it because I knew we had a lot more miles until we got to the host. Getting out of the canyon the wind was so strong and blowing us sideways. We were leaning to side to stay up.
We got rained on again and pulled over for a little while until it stopped. Coming out of the canyon I thought it was going to be a steep climb but thankfully it the town of Moab was not much higher and we just rode out of the canyon with little incline.
We spent 3 days in Jackson! Three Days! Imagine the luxury.
I rode into this resort town with Jasper and Rambo. The day started off cold and the was some big climbing to do. We stopped just once to catch our breath, then forged on ahead. It was another day of absolutely gorgeous scenery. I recalled what my mother #2 had said so many times before the trip began, “Be careful coming down the Rockies, there are no guard rails!”. Well, there are some guard rails, just not a lot. Plenty of places to go over the edge. We needed to get ferried across a construction zone, but the workers just threw our bikes in a pick-up truck, we hopped in, and off we went. I heard a story from another cyclist about a tourer who refused to be ferried across, saying he wanted to bike every single mile across America. He apparently ended up taking a nap until the crews were done for the day, then going across himself.
As we rounded a bend in the road on the descent, the Grand Teton Mountains opened up before us. It was a spectacular sight that only got better as we got closer. We ended up stopping at an overlook for almost 3 hours (we were the lead group) in order to take a big group photo in front of the mountains, the same place that Team Portland 2011 had gotten theirs. It was worth the wait though, as the photos look great.
Jackson definitely feels like a touristy town but it is nice. We had a relaxing brunch on our first day off, then it was off to the Tetons to go hiking. It was a popular destinaton and there were lots of other hikers out. We came upon some friendly squirrels who were clearly no stranger to humans, as they crawled all over us to try and get food. One even tried to take a crumb out of Chey’s mouth.
Our large group naturally got split up along the way. At one point, Dale, Jasper, and Sohum began climbing up a rock face, and I didn’t
see them until the end of the day in the parking lot. Apparently, they had basically climbed halfway up the mountain, blazing their own trail.
We beat the rain that was threatening the park and returned to town for ice cream and a delicious vegetarian dinner (in that order) at the Lotus Cafe, which I highly recommend.
Rest day 2, Sophie, Brad, and I did some bouldering in the park on the free public rock walls, which were awesome. We finally held our second Powwow that night, allowing people to voice their love and frustration with the 4K so far. A fine and restful two days.]]>
I kind of feel like this misfit is me, in terms of blogging on this trip. I haven’t. At all. I am realizing now that is because I have a not-so-rare case of FOMO. FearOfMissingOut: the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out.
After spending up to 12 hours on the bike, after talking to cancer survivor, after violently washing your chamois with hand soap (or maybe not even, also due to FOMO), one’s prime concern is hanging out with the people you have been hanging out with for the past thousand hours: we are all addicted to each other and the idea of having company 24-7. One of the other riders, Seddy, has been talking a lot recently, about how the 4k is like a family. You know almost everything about all the other riders on the team, you bike with them, eat with them, shower with them (in communal showers ha!), etc. It is inevitable that there would not be instances of hostility and friction. That happens in every family; but through the mountains high and the valleys low you still love your teammates.
Your teammates are the ones that get you through all the hardships. Though the hardships, may not be freaking out because you don’t know how to clip out when you come to a complete stop or not knowing how to shift down to the granny gear up the Appalachian Mountains, we have our share of problems: One of the most prevalent problems within this team is that of pride and stubbornness. Though no one has the same athletic background on the trip, many of the riders have that “no pain no game” mentality from previous bullets on their athletic resumes: and I am not talking: oh she used to swim recreationally, he used to hike on the weekends. We have a national ice skating champion, a sponsored mountain biker, an athletic trainer, a crazy good soccer player, and multiple varsity college athletes on our team. On top of many other riders who are mentally, extremely tough.
So, as I was saying, stubbornness and tunnel vision on this trip are huge problems, especially when it comes to injuries: I would be lying if I were to say I have always stop riding, when my physical well-being has been endangered. I remember one instance in particular. We were doing our first century in a while (100 miles). We were headed into Franklin, Nebraska and it was supposed to be over 100 degrees. The 4k has a policy not allowing the riders to rider at above 95. My team that Day was Dylf (Double Yellow Line Fun?- we have all passed the Double Yellow Line challenge of peeing on a D-Y-L), the team I always ride with on century/ harder days because we are all not only physically strong riders, we are all mental beasts. (The century before this one, I was throwing up at one of the gas stations, Dale was dry heaving on the side of the road, Christine got sun poisoning on her legs and Sohum’s calf gave out so he road the second half of the journey with one leg. We approached mile 90 and got a group texting saying we would have to get into the vans and be shuttled to the host because it was too dark… DYLF biked fast, and hid from the vans at all costs– so that is a little team dynamic background for you.
So yeah, Century #2. We were going from Fairbury, NE to Franklin, NE. The day started off with 4am wake up to ensure being out before the heat. After very little extreme considerations we thought it would be plausible to absolutely crush the century with a strategy of SPRINTING… I definitely had selective thinking when taking into account how reasonable this idea was. I know from running… you have to pace yourself. Well we didn’t. That morning the teams went off, with Team Cupcake in the front. This is the team comprised of Brad (the sponsored biking) and few others who can keep up the pace of 19-25 MPH for the day. We they set off at their pace and our team left probably 15 minutes after them. DYLF was absolutely demolishing the Fairbury country side, our attitudes were high, our adrenaline was high and the sun was rising alongside us as we road. It was not much more than 10 miles in that I experienced problem #1 of the day: I could no longer shift to my granny gear. My gears were broken. So I was KILLING myself trying to stay up with the rest of my team: or the rest of my team who was still going. It was at about this time the other girl in team DYLF, Christine, switched groups mid ride due to our obscene pace. I decided to stick it out until the water stop at mile-20. Once we hit the water stop Matt, switched groups. People don’t switch groups once groups have been picked for the day… so this shows just how absurdly we were riding.
Brad, from team Cupcake, fixed my gears and we began onto our second 20 miles. Because we realized catching up to Cupcake meant we were riding faster than them, we decided to take the pace “down a notch” about 20 MPH… still way to fast for a century and at this point it was 930 and probably already 90+ degree with heavy headwinds, blowing directly at us. I went into auto pilot and spent this leg of the day just staring at the wheel in front of me. I was not talking to anyone on my team because I knew I was getting dehydrated and delirious. I kept thinking the cornfields we were passing was the ocean, because they looked kind of like waves when the wind would blow over them…. they didn’t look like waves… I was going crazy and was just imagining the water I needed. We, got to the next rest stop, and this was the first time on the trip that I had ever considered getting in the van but I was not feeling good. I was not even hungry. I kept getting the chills, and I threw up the water I drank at the rest stop. However, I did it casually so I played it off like I was fine and continued on. Our third leg of the day was when we lost Rambo, his knee gave out on him and he had to get into the van. DYLF went from 6 to 3 in a matter of 43 miles… with 57 to go. We are right on track to have NO ONE in the group make it. But we were still determined. Things crossed the line though when at mile 60 we realized it was 105 degrees out. Our team decided to keep going… none of us had steam left. We were crawling up the hills. At mile 63, my body about died. On ONE hill, I broke my chain… got back on my bike, road 36 feet, threw up, road 14 feet and then fell off my bike. I consider myself saved by the bell because we got a mass text saying to find shade and that we would be shuttling the rest of the century due to the temperature.
So stubbornness is one hardship we often face and we really need our teammates to look at a situation as a third party and help make our own personal decisions… because we all get a little bit crazy
Century #3: Arapahoe, NE into into Imperial, NE. Because DYLF looks out for each other, we made the decision on our third century to take it at a less psychotic speed . It was on this ride that I learned from the Pokemon World Champion all about what it took to become that good and learned how you could play/view the game similarly to a soccer game, mentally. HAHA. Anyway, We went at talking pace and all shared embarrassing stories…karma knew we were treating our bodies with respect and, in turn, gifted us with our photo on the front page of the local Imperial newspaper. As we entered into Imperial the 6 of us were followed by the photographer: paparazzi style. Had we looked like shit from biking 25 miles an hour for 100 miles our appearance would not have been news worthy.
Whether you realize it or not, your teammates get you through each and everyday’s ride. It is weird but it seems that there is an unspoken cue of riders getting adrenaline rushes. So one person will get a rush on the hills, which helps to pull the others up, one person pushes the straight-a-ways, etc.
Another hardship that teammates really help me out with is my bike problems. As mentioned, I am no cyclist, regardless of how fast or slow I am going, I still know hardly anything about bikes. So when I have issues, my teammates are my teachers: in particular, Brad and Z. They are the bike mechanics, and they probably spend up to 3+ hours a night just working on the bikes. They have probably taught me as much about bikes as I actually took away from certain classes at school, whether it be by showing me proper grip form, gear changing tips, parts of the bike, dietary tips, or just strategy when riding, not to mention they have showed me how to change flats, work my bike computer (so that it tells me the speed I am going in MPH and not KPH… we were going down a hill at one point in the Tetons and my bike computer said 75…. it was KPH and I didn’t realize). Pretty helpful!
One last thing I do want to mention, because I am currently sitting alone outside the library in American Falls, ID using the wifi even though the library is locked trying to finish this blog before I mentally freak out because I know I am only going to get 6 hours of sleep, is that mental challenges of making yourself want to continue is a huge hardship we all face. To give a brief background of the teams speed spectrum/ dynamics I am just going to say. For the first chunk of the ride we were able to pick our own riding groups each day. We realized that lead to a huge large improvement for faster riders and then just plateauing for the others. The leaders realized that people were continually riding in similar groups during the day, and decided to randomly assign groups. Which would lead to a larger range of speed within groups. This is when we noticed hairs started being pulled. Faster rides would get frustrated because they could not improve because they found themselves waiting more, and slower riders became mentally defeated when fast riders would pressure them to maintain certain speeds/ faster riders would ride ahead, leaving slower riders to be cycling alone in the back. This became a huge issue for a while, and I was definitely guilty of some of those feelings. I realized though at points I was in both situations. And I realized, when in the slower position, for me, when a stronger riders would bike with me, it would motivate me to go faster.
One of my favorite illustration of this was when I was in a group with myself, Rambo and Sophie (arguably, one of the strongest girls on the team). It was day 16: Vincennes to Effingham, IL. It was a gorgeous day out and we had massive tailwinds, making an extremely fast pace. Sophie and I are pretty similar in speed and so it was awesome to have be able to feed off each other. We passed a group going 30MPH on a ground, which was definitely the fastest speed I had ever hit at that point, same with Sophie. So we had major adrenaline, allowing us to maintain uncharacteristically fast speeds. A little laster in the ride I remmeber almost quitting and falling back from the group and at that very moment Brad asked “ok lets see how fast you can actually go,” he wanted us to sprint. Because of my competitive mentality, there was no way I was going to pass up a challenge like that. We started sprinting down the hill hitting 36 and then continued sprinting up the hill, where I started mentally checking out. I thought I had just foolishly sprinted next to Brad by myself, I looked to my side and Sophie was right there pushing through this challenge with me. It was one of the greatest feelings I had experienced on the 4k. I didn’t give up, we pushed to the top of the hill.
After removing myself from the situation, I realized that I don’t always need to be the one being helped up the hills. There are people I could help, rather than get frustrated with if they are going slower. Everything goes both ways. I took this as a challenge to personally help someone on the team, just as Brad and Sophie did for me. Just last week we were assigned groups again. My friend Trish was in my group, along with Jasper and Eric, 2 strong riders. Trish had been having a rough week because her asthma had been acting up from the high elevation. I took it as a personal task to help her up the hills. She is a big time volleyball player at school and so she responds well to mental challenges. She had already decided she was going to make it to mile 40 and call it a day! So at mile 36 we had rolling hills until the next water stop at mile 40. Me and my mediocre motivational skills decided to put Trish into a volleyball situation. Too bad I know nothing about volleyball. The conversation went sort of like this “OK, Trish there are two minutes left in the game.” We were on a hill and she was having trouble breating but it was not too much of a struggle for her to shoot me a “Nellie, are you kidding me 2 minutes look?” I responded with “2 period?” and then realized “2 POINTS LEFT TRISH!” and if you stay with me up this hill you are going to have won your playoff game. I kept repeating it over and over to her telling her she was strong and that she could relax as soon as she made it to the top because at that point we would be at the 40-mile water stop. She did it and I was so excited for her. I felt as if we were on a relay team and we had just won! it was awesome! She beasted that hill and it was all because of teamwork and teammate motivation.
So as I said earlier, though there are small tiffs and what not you love your team for what they do, each person contributes to the team differently and appreciating each person for that virtue is why we all love each other and want to be with each other at all times. Going back to the kid who skips class…. FOMO is probably why he wasn’t there.]]>
The cycle downwards was outlined by vast canyon walls and inspired a full- width stretch of my facial muscles. Megan and I joined up with Caiti and Chelsea in Ten Sleep… A small town nestled below the mountain where we enjoyed snow cones before continuing the 30 miles into Worland Wyoming.
All in all it was a 90 mile day… quite greatly enjoyed. I rode for my family friends crew to inspire me over he mountains. It is incredible how supportive they have all been both in my 4k journey and my life in general. Thank you Jan, Jerry, Ann-Marie, Steve, Wendy, Mark, Helen, Ray, Rebecca, Scott F., Vicki, Bruce, Mary Kay, Scott M., Sharon, Dave… What an amazing network of exceedingly great people!
We stayed the night at the Worland Community Center Complex. It was a mail drop which means we all gorged ourselves on home baked goods and other sent treats.
A group of us briefly perused the town before grabbing some beta waves whilst sunk into the gym floor.]]>
Emily taught me the lyrics to the Garth Brooks song “Rodeo” in preparation for Cody as we rode. In town we stopped at a river to swim before making our way to the host church. Dinner was meat loaf from a diner which when approached with our food requests simply removed the meatloaf special from their daily menu and gave it to us instead. So nice. We also had flagship cheese donated from an organic store and cherries from a local woman. Lovely stuff.
We attended the Cody Nite Rodeo which occurs nightly in the summer. I was thrilled to walk in and have the rodeo song I’d learned with Emily playing on the main speakers. It was definitely a new and interesting experience. We saw bareback horse bucking, bull riding, young kids riding steers, horse races, an event where from horseback individuals lasso calves and then jump off and hogtie them, young children run and grab ribbons off calves, little girls doing tricks atop double horses, a rodeo clown act… Probably more.
western scene at its finest]]>
For dinner we prepared tortillas, rice, and beans. We continued to linger around the fire unto the night… A bit of musical improv, stories, etc.
When the van retrieved us we stopped at the Grand canyon of yellowstone to admire it on our way. In West Yellowstone a handful of us went to the Laundry mat to use showers.
Casey’s step-brother works at the park so he and his girlfriend Kate met up with him and Kevin, Sam and I were lucky enough to go out with them at Wild west pizzeria and bar. They bought us appetizers and drinks and also stocked us up with non-perishable items for the team from a grocery store. Cool people… And so kind! much thanks to them for their generosity.
The night was spent at the Fire chiefs house- Scott Waldron. Upon our coming to the station to stay he instead invited us all to his home where he and us wife barbecued for us and provided us with excellent company. It is always a treat to be in a family home and with such great, kind people! Thank you Waldrons!!!]]>
Rode with cross-country tour cyclists Zach and Catherine for awhile… Headed to Portland, their new home. We are now on the adventure cycling Lewis and Clark trail route so we have run into some other cross country cyclist groups… Fun to chat with.
Host was at a community center. We made pasta for dinner with garbanzo beans. We’ve behanging out on the front porch bench which over looks the small main street…Listening to tunes playing from the parked van… Good times with good people.]]>
I rode today for Dean Christensen. Dean is an amazing individual whom I met while fundraising in Bellingham. He has been incredibly supportive and it was a joy to spend time with him at events. He too bikes… And does so in style… Rode with him briefly one night following his giant L.E.D. lit heart which trails behind his bicycle. Great guy… And a cancer survivor… Yay! Thanks Dean.
Upon reaching the East entrance of the park we waited for the van which shuttled us the rest of the way I to our campground at Bridge Bay. We forwent riding through the park in consideration of our safety along the road. We were the first shuttle group to arrive and when we got in we finished setting up tents, gathered firewood and played cards.
When everyone arrived we heated up soup for dinner and ate excessive amounts of chips and salsa which we had donated in mass.
A group of us later rode down to the nearby Yellowstone Lake where Jose, Johnny and I took a quick swim. Settling back into the sand a thunderstorm soon arose. Red lightning spread throughout the sky and dense amounts of rain fell upon us as we scurried to bike back to camp and secure our stuff undercover before grouping together within the tents.
Was a van day for me. Sam and I rocked it. Same road all day… Driving, reading, sleeping. Beautiful. Went past Earthquake lake… Buried land in the 50 s. Again, Montana rocks.
Stayed the evening at Sheridan elementary school. Had a great meal in the yard at a fundraiser for the local hospital.]]>
We had the most phenomenal hosts in Cedar City! We stayed at the homes of church members (homestays). My group stayed with Ed and Linda, and it was the most amazing host experience. We even got milk and cookies before we went to sleep! It just felt so great to stay in a home after being on the road for 56 days; didn’t hurt to sleep in a bed for the second time on this whole trip either!
Today, we arrived in Milford, UT, staying a high school of 160 students. I was really inspired by the custodian who let us in the building. His passion for the students and love of the community was very inspiring. I find that the smallest towns we have visited are the most kind.
I can’t believe we have only 13 days left, and tomorrow we’re crossing into Nevada!!
This morning I got to sleep in. Usually during rest days I cant sleep in because Im so used to waking up early or other people wake me up. I went to breakfast with Vince at a café. After breakfast we went to a local book store. I love small book stores. They’re much more interesting than chains.
We came back and got ready to go to arches national park. We planned to go on a 4 mile hike but we only made it about a mile before it started to pour and we turned back. The rain slowed down by the time we got back to the parking lot so we were freezing. The van dropped us off at the trail head because another group wanted to do a different hike. It was hard to get them to find us because we had no cell service. Eventually they came back and we all got picked up. I was really disappointed that I didn’t get to see more. This is the only place on the trip that I hadn’t seen before so I was really looking forward to it. I was glad I got to see some of it but it would have been nice to hike more.
We went to take a shower, do laundry, and eat dinner.
The drive into SD was beautiful. There were hundreds of windmills. It made me really happy to see them. It was also quite humbling. They are absolutely massive, yet the wind was making them spin rather rapidly. This just goes to show the power of the wind. This was a further reminder of my hatred of wind. Seeing as how Rocinante is the name of my faithful bike, it would have been really fitting to be riding that day. I was a bit bummed about that. But it was still a great day for the team and we all made it there safely.
We got a wonderful donation from an organic co-op. They gave us packs of peanut, hazelnut, and walnut butter. These have been proving very useful to the bikers because they are really convenient and full of energy. We set up lunch at a nice park that Chelsea and Jose found. It had been a really long day and everyone ate too much and then slept. We stayed that night at a very friendly church that had some amazing lasagna for us.
Not a whole lot to blog about on van days. Another observation we’ve made as we’ve come further west is that people do not count down or give any sort of warning when taking pictures. If you ask a stranger to take a picture of you and your group, you better be ready because as soon as the camera is in their hands, Click! There goes the picture. No “Ready? 3, 2, 1.” Or “Say Cheese!” It’s just grab and shoot. This has caused some interesting pictures.]]>
Today was supposed to be a long day but it ended up being our shortest day on the trip. We started on a bike trail which was really nice. It’s always nice to ride and not worry about the cars. When the trail ended we got back on the road with a small shoulder and rumble strips taking up most of the shoulder. We were supposed to turn on to another road and spend the rest of the day on it. When the van drivers learned that it was a dirt road that was unrideable they decided to shuttle us. The only reroute would be on the interstate and we weren’t sure if it was legal. It was supposed to be shuttling for about 17 miles but that would only allow 2 miles for us to ride so we were just brought directly to the host.
It kind of sucks that we had to shuttle straight to the host but at the same time I was tired so it was probably good thing. When we got to the host and the vans came back from shuttling everyone, the host van went to Moab to find donations (Green River was a really small town). I didn’t need to but I decided to go with them. I just needed time away from a big group. I went with Patrick Schneider, Alex, and MJ. I took a nice nap both on the way there and back. We walked around a little asking for donations and we got a snow cone. It was a really nice break from riding and just sitting at the host.
Today was a long day. I rode with Peter, Tony, Marilyn, Sandi, and Hyo. I rode for my brother since today is his birthday. It started off well but then the road turned to a gravel road which slowed us down a lot. After we got off the gravel road we were moving faster but the pavement was still not smooth.
We had a few setbacks that put us behind an hour and half from the other teams. The van drivers shuttled us 5 miles to the next water stop. We had a few hills that weren’t too bad but my legs were cramping.
I didn’t expect to us make to it. Besides the fact that we were so far behind in terms of time, there was also a storm coming. We kept going anyway. We were trying to go fast to beat the storm and make it there before having to get shuttle but a few hills were making my legs cramp up and slowing me down.
I kept thinking we were going to have to get shuttled because the sun was going down. Every time I saw the van drive by I expected them to tell us we had to stop.
When we got to the entrance of the park, the van drivers told us they were going to go up ahead and stop on the side and then follow us and pass and continue to do that until we got to the campsite. I was really excited I would be able to finish the day. I hate getting shuttle. My legs were killing me but I was trying to ride as fast as possible because the sun was already down. We pulled into the campground around 9 with the vans following us. Our tents were set up for us, which was really nice. We had dinner and went straight to bed.
In this half delirious state I am essentially trying to say that as much as I wanted to be out there today I am incredibly grateful for the team I have around me. They are always looking out for my best interest and taking care of me when I need it and sometimes when I don’t want it too. We only have 12 days left of this trip and I can safely say that I am incredibly happy for the people I have on my team and will miss them dearly.]]>
Today I volunteered to do van duty. Because we camped last night, I couldn’t charge up my bike computer which was the initial reason for wanting van duty. I thought I should do my van duty on a day I couldn’t track my ride. But this morning I was still chaffing really badly from yesterdays ride. In the end I probably wouldn’t have been able to ride even if my computer was fully charged.
I was torn between my decision of riding and driving. Today was probably the toughest day of the entire trip. There was no name to one road or even a specific mountain pass but it was extremely steep with long hills and the highest total ascent. I was a little jealous because it was the toughest day and I wanted a challenge but kind of glad at the same time because I don’t know if I could have finished. Either way, I couldn’t ride if I wanted to the way I was feeling.
My favorite superheroes have always been from comics or in cartoons. Their superpowers make them more special than ordinary people. Superman can fly and is really strong. Spider-man can climb buildings and shoot webs from his hands. Batman has an awesome utility belt and cool cars. They all fight to beat evil. What makes them heroes is the courage they show when all hope seems lost. They have courage to defeat the bad guys around them, they stay strong for others, they never give up, and they fight with everything they have.
Even though Superman, Spider-man, and Batman are all amazing, they don’t come close to the coolest and strongest superhero I know… YOU! Every day that you fight and stay strong, people are inspired by your courage and strength. Your superpowers are out of this world! The battles can be tough, but like a superhero, you will make it through. You have fans that are so proud of you and who think you are the greatest!
You inspire me, and I think of myself as one of your biggest fans. It makes me proud thinking of you every day. I often wonder what I could do if I had just half of your strength and superpowers. Keep up the fight and know that I am cheering for you! You’re awesome. It’s a bird… It’s a plane… No, it’s Jake Grecco!
With Love and best wishes from your BIGGEST fan,
P.S.- If you ever need a sidekick, I might know a good person for the job.
P.P.S.- That person is me. I want to be your sidekick.
Leaving from Escalante we had two members from the town ride out with us. It was really nice to ride with different people. I had a lot of fun talking to them and listening to their stories. There was a gradual hill in the beginning and then a really nice downhill. After that it was a small gradual downhill or flat. At the end of the day there was a long hill that started out gradual and then became steep. I was going so slowly and my legs were hurting but I was able to make it up without stopping. Going up the steep hill into Bryce we had a pretty view of Bryce Canyon.
We got in pretty early so I was catching up on blogging and I fell asleep. After dinner, we went to a rodeo. I’ve never been to one so it was an interesting experience. Some of us left early to go to Bryce Canyon. We drove to the park up to inspiration point. I was really excited because I had visited it with my family and it brought back good memories. We went for a hike up to Bryce Point and watched the sunset. We were hiking in the dark at the end. It was so pretty and I took so many pictures.
Day 52: Capital Reef, UT – Escalante, UT – Due to lack of internet access last night, we didn’t know the elevation of the day or the exact milage. Today was one of the toughest days with the most accent that we had to perform with 2 mountains that we climbed for a total of 75 miles. The first mountain was difficult but Ana and I had a really great discussion that made us forget about the mountain. There were some spectacular views at the top of the ridge yet it was a little bit eerie riding up there looking down into the beautiful surroundings and realizing there was no guard rail and no shoulder to the road. Going down the 14% grade (thats right 14%) there were guard rails. I’m glad to have been able to complete this arduous day. At the end of the day we went to dinner in the community of Escalante. Several people from the town came out and cooked us an amazing dinner. I was so fortunate to have been able to experience their kindness. Apparently since there has been a lot of fallout from bomb testing there has been a lot of cancer related deaths within the community and they were able to empathize with our cause.
Day 53: Escalante, UT – Bryce Canyon, UT – Today’s ride was easier especially since we had such big climbs yesterday. I’ve been to Bryce Canyon 12 years ago with my mom on our trip out west. It was really interesting riding into the park and seeing some of the canyon. Tonight we went to the canyon to see the sunset. I remember getting up very early with my mom in order to see the sun rise in Bryce. As I looked upon the sunset in reminded me a lot of those days. I also went for a 2 mile jog along the rim of the canyon which was absolutely amazing. One group was dropped off to hike a 2 mile hike and the other group drove the van to the lookout point. I sped ahead of the hiking group by jogging while the sun was setting. I got to the point where the van group was and we took pics and then raced to see another vista with the sun setting. It was a good time.
Day 54: Bryce Canyon, UT – Zion, UT/ St. George – Today’s ride was amazing. It was mostly downhill which was really cool to fly down. The best part of the ride was the bike trail around Red Canyon. What a beautiful sight! We also had a couple of fun stops. First we stopped at a cafe for some hot coco since today was a cold day (very unusual). Then we stopped in a town for lunch and some ice cream! The last stop was right outside of Zion where we got to see some buffalo which was about a mile out of our route but there was a sign for a buffalo viewing area. I also was playing some bicycle games with Dong and MJ today which was fun. We then got to Zion and we all shuttled to St. George since there were no places to stay in Zion. The drive through Zion was amazing. I also came here 12 years ago and it was as spectacular as it was back then although I did look at the road with a bicyclists viewpoint this time. There was an amazing downhill that I would have liked to try to fly down. Today is also the premier of Batman which we got a group of 15 to go. We had the best time getting our seats which were perfect, and watching an hour of movie previews waiting for the movie to start at midnight. The movie itself was also very amazing, go see it if you haven’t and make sure to rematch Batman Begins. We then came back and I was so pumped that I couldn’t go to sleep so I played a couple games of ping pong with Ethan. It was a good day.
Day 55: Rest day in Zion/ St. George, UT – Today was a chill day. Playing pong, doing laundry, going out to get donations, eating dinner, playing pong, listening to a jam session with Vince, the vocalist, and music director of SMCC church on the piano playing a whole lot of worship music. I also challenged MJ to drink a gallon of milk in under 30 mins without puking because this is what mature adults do. I’ll just say I won and he complained that I tried to kill him (jokingly).
Day 56: Zion/St. George, UT – Cedar City, UT – Today I dedicated my day to my Grandmother Joan Schneider (Oma) who died in 1987 from cancer. Today’s challenge was battling a 15 mile stretch of a dirt road, dodging Dong’s water ballons (he hit me 1/5 and I hit him 2/2) and we had to be shuttled due to a small tornado/hail storm. Also MJ’s bike just ceased up on him today. He unclipped, stood up straight and looked at the bike which the derailed was all jacked up and the hanger was completely bent. We had to call the van in order to pick him up. Since nobody got hurt, our bike mechanic Peter is amazing and his reaction was so comical it was a highlight of the day. We also went to our host which was a church whose members hosted us in their homes that night. Myself and 4 other guys went into the pastors home which was really fun. The whole family was so hospitable and we were able to have a great conversation, I performed a short juggling act, Vince sung while the pastor played the piano and there was a ping pong table so we all played that as well which was really fun too. In all today was a wonderful day.
Day 57: Cedar City, UT – Milford, UT – Today was van duty for me which at the end of the day turned out pretty well yet it was looking grim at the beginning of the day. I drove the host van to Milford High School, met our host contact Cullen, talked with him for a while which was pretty interesting to hear a little bit about his life, then drove around town with little luck obtaining food donations, then drove to a neighboring town Beaver which had either was a 20 miler or a 40 miler. We chose the 20 mile route which we found out was a poor dirt road up a mountain. At one point there was an inverted speed bump which crept up on me but we made it through alright. We also were driving from restaurant to restaurant in Beaver when it started to rain. About 5 mins after it started to rain we were driving and literally the lightning struck about 100 feet away from us on a field. It scared all 3 of us who were in the car. Thankfully we were able to get some food from Beaver and return (the 40 mile paved way which took a lot shorter time than the 20 mile way) to the host to provide food for everybody. I also went swimming with MJ, Dong and Vince which was really fun too! We all had dinner provided by the local Lions club at Subway. It was a very generous act. In all, today was a great day filled with adventure.]]>
Just as planned, we split up for the first part of the day, since people wanted to visit different things. My group slept in (something I definitely needed after yesterday) while others woke up early to climb Going-to-the-Sun Road, a famous scenic ascent through the glacier-capped mountains. We were planning on hiking or doing other activities in the park before heading off to white water rafting, but there wasn’t much time after we finally got moving and drove from our host at Whitefish to the town of West Glacier, which lies just on the edge of the park, so we didn’t get a chance to do much then. Once we reunited with the climbing group, we secured a quick lunch donation and then made our way to the white water rafting company.
Our team had decided to use some extra money for team-building to have a big adventure on the rapids, and while I readily supported the idea, I had no idea what to expect, not having been white water rafting before. When we pulled up, the staff was great in helping us and making sure everyone knew what they needed to know. It couldn’t have been easy working with a group of twenty-seven, but they obviously had a lot of experience with it, and our day went incredibly smoothly. After getting life vests and water shoes, we took a short bus ride to a river near the boundary of the national park. Our group was split over four rafts, each of which held eight people plus a river guide. The guide for my boat, Mark, was a phenomenal leader and host, especially for those of us who hadn’t been rafting before. The ride started out slow at first, which gave us a chance to get used to how to maneuver the boat; we listened closely for the commands of “all forward,” “all back,” and “relax.” The key was to move in sync with one another; otherwise, we would get nowhere. Mark also took this time to act as a tour guide of the park and surrounding area; with a considerable dose of charisma and genuine interest in what he does, he explained some facts about the geography and history of the areas we passed through, something that made the trip even more fascinating.
We soon got used to the controls and were ready to move into the first of nine areas of rapids. Anticipation built as we neared the first ridge of white that broke the steady stream of water we had been traveling across. Going over the rapids was an exhilarating experience: the thrill of a roller coaster combined with the uncertainty of whether we would get thrown from the boat into the chilling water. Although we were reassured that all would likely be well if that happened (our guide had swum all nine of the rapids before), I was never on the edge of falling out purposefully. After a few quick-paced rides, though, we came to a pool in which we were able to get out and swim. I wasn’t necessarily planning on getting in the frigid water, but as everyone else was jumping in, I had no choice but to follow Ishpreet’s YOLO motto and commit myself to finding out what it was like to be submerged in glacial runoff. The initial shock of the water was moderately intense, but it was far from the coldest I’ve felt on the trip. It was great to swim (however briefly) in the river, and we warmed off quickly enough in the midday sun.
The rest of the ride down the river was a blast, and it seemed to end too soon, even though we had been out on the water for several hours. When we bussed back to the rafting headquarters, our groups viewed the photos of us going over the roughest waters and then we split up again; my group, which hadn’t seen much of the park, drove up the same mountain pass that the earlier group had ridden on bikes. At first the view outside looked like any other evergreen park, but we were soon greeted by towering mountains with considerable snow cover. Then began our giant ascent “toward the sun.” The road snaked its way around the mountains on its way up toward the glaciers themselves. We passed waterfalls that crashed right onto the highway (and which, over time necessitate ongoing road repair, which we encountered along the way). As we got higher, the air cooled until the point that we found snow mounds packed by the side of the road. We also saw a small herd of mountain goats idling on the rocks nearby, a sight less intimidating but no less amazing than seeing buffalo in Yellowstone. At the top, we had an expansive panorama of the surrounding area, including some of the few remaining glaciers in the park. Although it was cold (and none of us were dressed for it), it was spectacular to have the chance to take in such a view.
After browsing the summit’s visitor center and taking a copious amount of pictures, we made our way back down the highlands, a less dramatic though no less scenic venture. In all, the drive back to our host in Whitefish took us a couple more hours, by which time night had nearly fallen (though, as a surprise to me, sunset doesn’t happen until 9:30 here on the edge of the time zone). Today has been a day of firsts for me, just as the rest of the trip has been: my first time white water rafting and my first time to see glaciers in person. It’s been an incredibly active rest day, and I can’t wait to get some sleep. Luckily tomorrow we only have a sixteen-mile ride into a town we’ve already passed through. It will be nice to have virtually another day of rest after our adventurous outing today.]]>
Luckily the ride was a shorter one, and we soon arrived safely (though on low tires) at our host for the evening. But the day didn’t end there. Today we had a really great opportunity, one to warm the heart and feed the soul: a visit to Camp Mak-A-Dream. Camp Mak-A-Dream an oncology camp that hosts a variety of different camps and retreats for those of all ages who have been/are affected by cancer. This week was kids week, so Team Seattle got to spend the rest of the day off the bike and hanging out with children who had one goal only: to have fun!
And fun we had:
Tomorrow’s another rest day. I plan on checking out Missoula and seeing what this new place has to offer.
Today was dedicated to the camp counselors at Camp Mak-A-Dream, a bunch of ambitious, adventurous cancer survivors.
Except, we couldn’t bike out of the park today. It was a matter of safety–winding, narrow roads, no shoulders, crazy RVs, and bison (bison in the midst of their mating season). The park ranger reiterated the dangers to our ride director, while I reminded him of last year’s story of shuttling through herds of buffalo. So, putting riders’ safety first, we decided to shuttle out of Yellowstone to our next host in West Yellowstone.
The only problem was that one group would have to hang back and wait for the second shuttle. I was in that luckily group, and here are all the sights from those few precious hours hanging around Yellowstone:
|Yellowstone national land bridge.|
|View of Yellowstone from the top of the land bridge.|
|Yellowstone canyon waterfall.|
|The stone after which Yellowstone is named.|
After waiting til about 2:30pm, we were picked up by the van and began the final shuttle out of Yellowstone. Along the way we saw buffalo, bears and elk. I fell asleep during the van ride and woke up just in time to catch the Montana state line:
|Welcome to West Yellowstone, MT!|
Our host tonight, Scott W. is the local Fire Chief and has generally opened his home to all 27 of us. His wife was kind enough to fix us dinner (and as we’re told breakfast tomorrow as well). I wanted to give a very special thank you to both of them for showing us true hospitality!
Tomorrow we’ll be back on our bikes and heading to Sheridan, MT. I hear Montana is one of the most beautiful states and I cannot wait to see if this holds true.
Preparing to Pedal Again,
Our ride to Fort Morgan was pretty fun, I remember getting in early and taking a nice nap on the basement floor of the Calvary Baptist Church. From Fort Morgan, we rode to Denver, CO. My ride to Denver was very memorable. Within 30 miles we saw for the first time The Rocky Mountains in the distance as we approached Denver city, and ultimately rode into the heart of Denver.
We stayed at the Central Presbyterian Church with alumni who had flown in for the 4th of July weekend that day. Seeing the alumni from training day was very exciting for us, because we finally had a mutual understanding of the entire 4k experience. We could finally just look at each other and laugh.
Our ride from Denver to Boulder began in a local park, with Team San Francisco meeting up with us. It was a big day for all of us because we were riding with Team San Fran and the Alumni who came to visit, into the most anticipated town on the trip. I remember riding with Allie Harvey and Dana Rampulla (Alumni). It was nice to see that Team San Fran was doing well despite their reroute due to forest fires in Colorado Springs.
As we approached Boulder, we began to encounter more bike lanes and paths than we could ever imagine! We were truly in cycling paradise! Riding as a group into town was very exciting, we saw many cyclists out and about either for their commute or for their own pleasure. Our host was St. John’s Church on Pine Street, right in the heart of Downtown Boulder. Upon arrival, we opened our mail drop packages like kids on Christmas morning. I received a wonderful package from a home stay host in Watseka, IL. Carol and Doug Clark, thank you! I loved the cinnamon sugar almonds and you remembered!
Our rest day was very productive due to our carwash in support of Jacob Grecco, an 8 year old boy who is the pedal pal of Chey Hillsgrove. We raised nearly $800 in just a couple hours as we washed cars, semi-trucks, bikes, and even some dogs. (Our team has developed a love for dogs, so much so that we have considered getting a Team Portland dog.) Ahem, anyways, back to the rest day…that night we packed the vans in preparation for our long ride to Laramie, WY.
Our ride to Laramie began with a beautiful morning. Our group was flying! I remember riding with Christine, Eric, and Andrea. At about mile 75, we encountered a huge storm system with heavy rain. When the lightning began we decided to seek shelter in a barn we saw down a long gravel driveway. Once the rain stopped it was so late in the day that we had to shuttle riders to the host, so we could ensure we would make it in time for showers and dinner.
The ride from Laramie to Saratoga was stunning! We climbed the Snowy Range Pass, a challenging 2800+ ft climb from 8000ft. I distinctly remember the downhill being long and grueling. About a quarter of the way down it began to rain and get quite chilly. I didn’t have my rain gear on at the time because the rain was unexpected. I quickly ate thru my rear brakes on the downhill as I forced myself to pedal in intervals to stay warm. Every 100 yds or so, I jammed on my brakes to slow from 35 mph to around 20 mph, then pedaled as hard as I could to keep the blood pumping!
Wyoming as a whole was beautiful and magnificent in size, with landscapes and mountains that boggled the imagination. Our last town in Wyoming was Jackson Hole, with amazing views of The Grand Tetons as we conquered the Togwotee Pass. We spent two rest days exploring The Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.
We left the town of Jackson by climbing The Teton Pass, and riding over 70 miles afterward to Idaho Falls. I will never forget the downhill on the Teton Pass, I hit well over 45 mph without pedaling on very tight switchbacks, while yelling things like “YEAH BUDDY!!!” (a common saying of Brad) and “WOOOOO!!!!!!” all the way down.
Our stay in Idaho Falls and Blackfoot were both wonderful, with amazing dinner’s and breakfasts by both our hosts. We appreciate good food so much! My ride to Blackfoot was with Brad and Jasper, we achieved a 21 mph average and bike 28 miles in just 1 hr and 21 mins. It was challenging but also very rewarding to know that I have attained enough biking skill and endurance to (barely) keep up with some of the strongest riders on the team.
Today I am enjoying a wonderful rest day in American Falls, ID. There are only 17 days left on the 4K, I am so excited to reach the coast, but I am also realizing that I will greatly miss many of my team mates who I have grown so close to over the past 50 days. I just burped in a public library, confirming that I have forgotten about life and manners beyond the 4k. Coming back from this experience will be quite an adjustment.]]>
|Heading through tunnels on our way to the Yellowstone entrance.|
|The breathtaking lakeside route to Yellowstone|
I was right, and I remain satisfied with my decision. As it turns out, we had to be shuttled into Yellowstone. It was cheaper (we only had to pay for two vans rather than two vans and 24 individual bikes) and safer (the roads are windy, lack shoulders, and are bustling with insane American tourists in RVs too big for their own good).
|We weren’t even in Yellowstone; the route improved in scenery as we approached…|
Casey I headed out of Cody after the riders left the church. Stopping to attempt a food donation from the local Walmart (which was a huge waste of time, although we did get coffee out of it so maybe it wasn’t so bad after all), the clock ticked away. We had to be efficient today; the plan was to rush into Yellowstone, drop off the bags, the food and the tents (and me) and then head back to the park entrance where the riders would meet the van and be shuttled in. Plus, this shuttling would have to occur twice. It was a lengthy drive from the park entrance to the camp ground so time was truly of the essence.
|Snow peaks are present as we climb into Yellowstone National Park.|
|Forest fires take their toll on an area of the park.|
Casey and I checked into the campground and unpacked the van. Before long it was time to go start the first round of shuttling and I–the “city boy” was left in Yellowstone, alone, without cell reception, with five campsites, nine tents, 30 duffle-bags, 30 backpacks, some bikes, two tarps, and boxes of food and supplies. What was my job? To set up the tents. The boy who never camped before now had to set up camp.
And just as Casey pulled away, the thunder and lightning started.
Like the cannon shot that preempts a race, I was jolted by the thunder into protecting all the luggage from the elements. Running around the campsite we deemed as HQ, I gathered all belongings, stacking them into a pyramid and covering them with our two tarps. Except, the tarps had no desire to remain on the pyramid, dancing in the wind and rendering themselves useless. Naturally, I got creative, staking the corners of the tarps into the ground and adding weight to the top using pots, pans, and a hammer.
And by the time it was complete, it had never rained more than a drizzle, the clouds had passed, and the sun was beginning to show. I decided to just leave the setup alone in the off chance that another rouge storm appeared.
I quickly organized the food, taking inventory of what we had for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next few days while brainstorming different meal ideas.
Then I set off to set up the tents, rain-flies and all. Luckily I had previous experience setting up these tents thanks to our stay in Mitchell, SD (when I slept in the tent in the back yard). I did stop a few times and check how Casey had set up the first two. Mimicking his method of which lines of the rain-fly were staked and which weren’t, I completed two tents by the time the first shuttle of riders had arrived. They all laughed as I came walking up from a nearby campsite, hammer in hand, dirt on my shorts, and sweat on my brow.
Camp was looking good and this city boy didn’t look so city anymore.
|Dinner the first night: a donated frozen pizza becomes a campfire calzone.|
Check back to hear more about Yellowstone, as we’ll be spending a rest day here tomorrow.
Taking Back Tent City,
Today’s efforts were dedicated to my brother, who I am reminded of all throughout Yellowstone. We definitely need to go camping together in the future. Hearing all these stories along the way about life, death and cancer survival have made me appreciate the time I get to spend with those I love; and have made me wonder why I haven’t gone camping with my brother already!
|Boats docked down by the lakeside general store.|
|We ate and hung out along the lake shoreline, purple mountains loomed in the distance as the sun set.|
|We hiked through the woods the following morning.|
|The afternoon sun warmed us through the trees as we ascended.|
|The hike to the summit was worthwhile.|
|The best way to end a night camping– with friends around a campfire.|
That’s just a sense of the past 24 hours here in Yellowstone. Tomorrow we leave the park for the nearby town of West Yellowstone and officially cross the border into Montana!
Moving Mountains to Montana,
|Cloudy peaks visible from our host’s home.|
|How all roads are lined in MT.|
|Peak after peak overshadow Earthquake lake.|
|And sometimes there are rivers too…|
|But most of Montana is mountainous.|
|Mountainous and beautiful!|
The ride to Sheridan was easier than the last few rides, a little more flat. It still had some climbs and some descents, though. Overall it was a great day, which was made even better when we ran into an ongoing charity auction/dinner for a local hospital. When we told them about our organization and cause they invited us to eat their leftovers–something 27 cyclists can easily accomplish. We even got to speak briefly about the 4K. Spreading awareness with dessert makes for a successful day.
|After a long day of cycling, Team Seattle enjoys story time in the public school library.|
If all of Montana is like today, I won’t mind the 11 days in this state one bit.
Taking in the Magic of the Mountains,
Today was dedicated to our warm, welcoming hosts from last night, Scott and Alice, as well as Casey’s step-brother and his wife for their generous food donations.
On July 4th, we rode north from Denver to Boulder, Colorado. The ride from Denver to Boulder was different from any previous day on the ride — we were able to ride with a number of 4K alumni and with 4K Team San Francisco! Emma (Seattle 2011), Chris (Portland 2011), Dana (4K 2010), and Terence (4K 2010) joined us on the night of the 3rd in Denver and Team SF met us on the morning of the 4th. It was wonderful to see alumni so dedicated to 4K and it was neat to meet Team SF, folks who’ve gone through to the same broad experiences as us. It was also neat to see two friends on Team SF again, Peter and Marilyn, most-of-a-country away from Baltimore and send-off.
Into Boulder, I rode with Brad and Andrea, along with three folks from Team SF. Along the route, we climbed and descended some gentle hills while the majestic Rockies loomed through haze.
On July 5th, we had a much-needed rest day in Boulder; Boulder was a hip, active town, a good place for a rest day.
What do we do on a rest day? Most of the time, we sleep in, catch up on blogging and calls, do laundry, and generally take it easy.
On this particular rest day, however, Brad, Yoshi, and I had other plans. We woke up at a “luxurious” 6 AM to bike up Flagstaff Mountain, one of the Flatirons. The mountain was an incredible challenge, with stretches hitting over a 17% grade in the thin mile-high atmosphere. Brad, Yoshi, and I each climbed at our own pace and met at a few rest points along the way; the highest point was 7,800 ft above sea level, roughly 2,000 ft above Boulder. I was and am so glad that I challenged myself at Flagstaff and that Brad and Yoshi were able to lead me up the mountain. It still floors me what physical trials we are able to overcome with the support of our teammates.
I will try to post about our team, about our ride, and this experience regularly; I will also be posting on my weblog, at ops101.org/4k where I can post photosets. Follow along, share stories, and comments!]]>
Today’s unusual weather wasn’t all bad, though. While Johnny and I were waiting for riders to come into the first water stop, about twenty miles into the route, we saw the sun rising over a beautiful fog that covered the fields we were passing through. Although it was still a little cool from the previous night, it was stunning to see such a large sea of fog at the base of the majestic mountains.
Our duties in the water van were somewhat of a challenge, since we have run out of chalk to mark the route. Unfortunately, there were a number of turns that riders had to make in the town of Dillon, which we had to convey to each group in person as opposed to simply marking it on the road. Even when we looked for sidewalk chalk, it turned out to be an unusually difficult item to find around here. Our efforts at providing support to the riders were not completely dashed, though: Everyone made it along the route all right, and we were even able to secure a breakfast burrito donation from Taco John’s to supplement our snacks.
One neat thing we saw today was a ton of other cyclists along the same route in Montana that we’re following. Some are riding for various causes, such as support for people with multiple sclerosis, while others are simply along for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. All of the people we passed were carrying a ton of gear along with them on their bikes (one person’s was said to weigh around eighty pounds!), a significant challenge compared to what we’re doing. It’s amazing to see people venturing out on such a journey without support vans. All of the cyclists we met were really friendly and interested in what we’re doing as well. It was a nice change of pace to meet up with others who understand what we’re going through on our bikes day in and out.
When we finally made it to the town of Wisdom, we made our way to its multipurpose community center, a little house right along the main highway that’s used for American Legion meetings, as well as other events. It’s a nice, rustic place to spend the night, with a kitchen and a couple of bathrooms: just what we need. A motel across the street even let us use one of their showers for the evening.
Despite the challenges of the day, it’s been a great experience, especially getting to see so many others completing similarly daunting feats of endurance (and not all of them are as young as we are!). Tomorrow we’ll have another opportunity to brave the unpredictable Montana weather and, hopefully, meet more people who are supportive of our cause.]]>
After we dealt with this initial snafu, we were able to go about our regular duties and enjoy the area we were passing through. Today’s route marked the entrance into the heart of the Bitterroot Valley, a range in southwestern Montana known for its fly fishing, logging, and mining, in addition to its stunning scenery. I had read a book about this region a few years ago, so it was fascinating to see the places discussed in the book brought to life. I even got to see the entrance to the ranch of one of the individuals mentioned in the book, which was a surprising find.
Abe and I, who drove the food van to Hamilton to pick up lunch and snacks for the riders, were technically the first to cross the border from Montana into a new state–Idaho–albeit for only a few seconds before we turned around and headed back into Montana. We also crossed the continental divide, again only temporarily, since we headed back to the east side for the time being.
When we arrived in Hamilton, we were immediately surrounded by a plethora of great (that is, delicious-sounding) restaurants that would serve as our hunting grounds for the day. We started off with a couple of small cafes, which generously gave us whatever they could afford to give, and then made our way to the chain stores. Among the most doting establishments were the town’s McDonald’s, whose manager kindly fed all of our riders pretty much whatever they wanted; Perkins, which donated enough sandwiches and cookies for tomorrow’s meals; and Pizza Hut, whose assistant manager gave us all the leftovers from the pizza buffet (still incredibly good) despite not being able to prepare anything exclusively for us. In all, almost all of the places we asked were willing to give us something, a sign of the true generosity of this town.
This unexpected kindness continued when we drove up to our host at the Grace Lutheran Church just off main street. I knew we were in for a welcoming experience when Joel, our host contact, greeted us by waving and announcing “I’m your host!” as soon as we pulled up. He was incredibly excited to see us and was a great help in getting us oriented and settled in. A two-time cancer survivor himself, he understands the importance of our cause and, more impressively, is willing to put effort into supporting those currently fighting the disease.
After we got situated (which included showering at the local pool, also arranged by Joel), we enjoyed a fabulous dinner prepared by a particularly dedicated contingent of the congregation. Our exhaustive menu included fried chicken (which they were able to successfully haggle for a discounted price, in true 4K fashion!), salad, potato salad, fruit salad (all the salads, really), cookies of multiple favors, ice cream, and pie. There was no shortage of food, and they even invited us to take a huge stockpile of treats for the route ahead to make sure we have enough to eat on our journey. Considering their generosity, that will undoubtedly not be one of our concerns.
Following dinner we presented our standard information about who we are and the people for whom we ride. What made tonight’s presentation extra special was that the dozen people from the church who had made us dinner each told a story about how he or she had been affected by cancer. It is such a pervasive disease that most people have at least some story to tell about a family member or friend who has struggled with it, and, surely enough, our hosts had experienced the same triumphs and heartbreaks that we have known. What was comforting was that they were willing to share such intimate parts of their lives with us, all in the name of mutual support. It was inspiring to hear them talk about loved ones who have faced cancer; they all reminded us why we’re on the road for seventy days, and it was a pleasure to get to know more about them.
Tomorrow we head out toward a unique host called Camp Māk-a-Dream, a summer camp for children who have cancer. One of the women who helped start it was actually at our dinner tonight, and she told us about how wonderful a place it is. We’re all excited to get to meet some of the kids there and, we hope, to share some inspiration and fun times with them. Thus we’ll continue to pass through this surprising land of snow-capped peaks and light-hearted people as we face new adventures in Montana.]]>
One of the first things we did was meet up with some of the Camp Māk-a-Dream people at the downtown carousel. They were making a field trip to this Missoula landmark, an intricate amusement ride constructed in the early 1990s by a group of volunteers and which stands as a public resource for inspiring dreams and providing fun. A few of us riders were able to ride it with some of the kids from the camp, and we all had a blast. It was the first carousel I’ve ridden in years, and it was definitely worth it to experience it with such great people. After we parted ways with the campers (not until first giving them 4K bracelets), we headed over to a food vendor festival that was occurring in the adjacent park. I tasted a few choice culinary goodies and wafted through the inviting odors of the rest. In addition, live music and impromptu slam poetry readings added to this snapshot of the tapestry that is Missoula life.
After the festival, we were able to explore city some more. I went to the university and checked out some of the more interesting sites there. Just walking around campus, I envied how gorgeous it was. Of particular note was watching the sunset over the main quad; the brilliant red of the big Montana sky stretched over old and new brick buildings and wide open green spaces. Not that I don’t like my alma mater, but this would have been a great place to have gone to college (with an enviable anthropology department to boot!). Other people explored other parts of the city. One group rented inner tubes and went floating down the Bitterroot River, which apparently was relaxing.
By the evening, we rejoined at the First Presbyterian Church, which was incredibly accommodating and patient with us when we needed an extra night after we had told them it would only be one. A few people from the congregation cooked us a great meal of pasta, nachos, and fresh fruit and brownies for dessert. They eagerly wanted us to share our stories and offered their warmest wishes for continued success.
Today has been a relaxing, fulfilling rest day in Missoula. The weather was perfect, we got to do a lot of fun stuff, and we spent more time with people who have made our cause worthwhile. I scarcely could have asked for a better day off. We’ll leave tomorrow ready for the open road ahead.]]>
I have spent the last week off my bike still due to my knee injury. I had been getting really irritated and frustrated that I couldn’t be on my bike with the rest of the team (being in the van gets awfully lonely and boring!) Just as I felt that I had reached a boiling point, we got to Escalante, UT. The people I met there were amazing, especially Harriet. She gave me a long hug as I was leaving and told me that God had special plans for me. Even though I wish I could be biking, I know that my role in the fight for cancer is not over just because I can’t bike on this trip, and that I cannot stop being positive!
Saratoga to Rawlings
Today’s ride was very similar to yesterdays. There were some rolling hills, lots of dry plains and mountains. We had a scavenger hunt today, which had us do or find things along the way, it was pretty fun. We ended up in Rawlings, a small town. We got ice cream as usual when we got to town…We were told not to go exploring at night.. I have added some pictures.
Rawlings to Jeffery City. GPS Died half way.
Todays ride was another long one. We took our time, visited Split Rock, a tourist and scenic area and made it to Jeffery City…which isn’t much of a city at all. Actually there is less than 50 people that live there. The only establishments are a church and a bar. More pictures than words for this blog.
Jeffery City to Lander No GPS.
To Lander! Home of NOLS and one of the best places to live/visit if you are a rock climber! Wayyyyy back in the day I lived in Lander. I must have been about 3? Either way I think it’s pretty cool. Lander was a cool little town. Cool bike/outdoor store, coffee stores and bars. The host was AMAZING! A member of the church took a couple of the guys to the store to get grilling food. They bought hamburger fixings and plenty of other good food, plus a little brew was nice as well. I jumped on the grill duty and began to cook, I made all the burger, which everyone seemed to like! Later that afternoon we walked about Lander, got ice cream ( duh ) and had a couple local brews. It’s a cool town, I would visit that area again if I was planning a climbing trip! No Map for today..I forgot to charge my Garmin.
Lander to Dubois
Ami and I drove the van to Dubois. That is all!
Today we had a rest day in Jackson, we spent the majority of the day hiking the Grand Tetons. We got about 8 or 9 miles in. It’s a beautiful place, you MUST check it out!!!
Second Rest Day. Did pretty much nothing, it was great
Pictures are in NO specific order…my photobucket got all mixed up.
I have also seen some changes in myself. Most obviously, I am now a much stronger cyclist than I ever was before. I is a great feeling to get on my bike and push myself to limits that I have never dreamed of. I have started to enjoy cycling so much that I am now looking into joining the team at my school. I am not sure if I will enjoy the competitive aspect of it, however, I know at the very least I will enjoy going out and training with them.
We only have a few more weeks of the ride left and then we are all facing the prospect of rejoining th real world. I am curious to see what last changes this ride will have on me. I have grown very comfortable with my 26 other teammates, so there are pretty much 0 social inhibitions. Now when I go back to my university of 50,000 strangers my outlook will be considerably different.]]>
Hey all, the numbers are getting out of order because I had to update and post from previous dates. They are not the most detailed posts, but they are there!
Thanks for reading! I’ll try to not get that behind again.
Since the beginning of the trip I have gotten extremely close with my team. I definitely consider these people my home away from home and can’t even imagine not being with them every moment of everyday, which is going to be reality in 17 short days. In particular I have developed a very close friendship to Sarah Lively. She lost her father when she was 8 from lung cancer and is doing this ride in his memory. Since early on in this trip I knew she would be a person I would look up too. Riding right behind her on many days I often stare at the words “Dad” that are more days then less written on her leg. With that I am inclined to push through any pain and exhaustion. She will definitely be a friend for life which I’m truly blessed for.
Many of us have been riding for a little boy named Jake who is currently battling brain tumors. He is only 8 years old and his mother has recently quit her job to take him to Germany for treatment not available in the United States. It’s heartbreaking what this little boy is going through, but it makes our mission and purpose on this trip that much more important. If Jake can’t give up then neither can we, even when we think we can’t push one more peddle. We have hope that he will survive and will continue to ride for him until we get to Portland.]]>
The moments have been so amazing. Climbing the Rocky Mountains, riding into the Tetons, seeing the wild west of Wyoming and into Potato land of Idaho. It’s been the kind of moments where I’m riding and taking pictures in my head to never forget the scenes around me, the mountains, the air, the feeling of accomplishment when I reach the top with Tracey– my climbing partner, and the realization that I AM biking across the country. Eric showed me the map on google the other day and I could not believe how far we had all come. We rode together, we cried together at morning circle dedicating each tough day to someone special affected by cancer, to eachother for pulling one another up the mountain, it’s been truly amazing and I will never forget these moments and the friends I have made along the way.
We’ve developed the strength to endure, the strength to overcome, and the drive to succeed. We are 4K Portland.
Our host that day were the parents of the current Portland ride director and we could not have found a better host in them. I have mentioned before that I have been having issues properly assimilating gluten and the hosts were more than accommodating of this. Furthermore, I needed to acquire follow up testing (I’m laughing to myself writing this since I don’t think I could sound more broken) and Mama Cochran took me to the clinic and filled in the maternal role so quickly and well I was quite surprised.
Speaking of (also laughing to myself again since I apparently say “speaking of” quite a bit), my test results at the clinic came back showing that I was no longer anemic but still on the lower end of normal or my hemoglobin account. They suggested that I take two more days off and get back on the bike]]>
Speaking of (also laughing to myself again since I apparently say “speaking of” quite a bit), my test results at the clinic came back showing that I was no longer anemic but still on the lower end of normal or my hemoglobin account. They suggested that I take two more days off and get back on the bike.
Later in the day, we went to the Hope Lodge and performed a talent show for the people staying there and to be completely honest, I was quite surprised. It never ceases to amaze me how modest that people that do posses real talent actually are. So many people on this team are very talented and I never would have known if not for this talent show.]]>
The pace at the beginning of the day was very mild and I was feeling strong enough to start off the pace line. A little way into the ride we saw a huge field of windmills. Now, we have come to look at windmills as a bit of a bad omen. If the area is consistently windy enough to warrant building windmills, then it generally means that we are going to encounter headwinds, crosswinds, or some quartering combination thereof. My heart sunk a little bit when I saw them but we were very lucky that day. The wind was blowing directly on our rear and a very strong wind at that. I was very happy when I was leading out another rider and he said, “Marc, we’re at 30!”. We were absolutely flying and the joke for the day was that cars were having a hard time passing. We also made it into South Dakota today as well which officially marked the beginning of the west for me. To top it all off, we were met at host by immense hospitality and a mail drop as well. Great day.
On a more serious note, I encountered a member of the congregation of the church where we were staying that had fought and won against brain cancer. Although inspiring to hear that he is still alive, it was a very compromised existence. His wife left him during the ordeal and he lost a lot of his functioning. He will forever stay in my memory as a very noted example of what cancer can do and the unfortunate depravity of the human spirit that was embodied by the people that left him high and dry when it was needed the most.]]>
A member of my team was pulling off of the shoulder of the road into the road itself and got his wheel jammed into a seam dividing the shoulder and the main road itself. All his forward momentum was translated into sideways momentum and he was tossed violently onto the road surface. I was riding in his draft and narrowly missed running over him. He was thrown so fast that he did not have time to put his hand down.
What occurred next was a whirlwind but I do distinctly remember seeing Doug unconscious and convulsing, something you never want to see. This lasted for about 15 seconds and he came to. He initially tried to get up and move about and had no recollection of what had occurred. We told him to stay still. A man had stopped and used his own vehicle to block traffic, a much more substantial alternative to the bike that we had put in traffic’s way to do the job. People stopped to make sure everything was ok and emergency personnel were on the scene shortly. We got Doug off to the hospital and the three of us continued on our way, definitely spooked to say the least. The rest of the day was a bit of a fog to recall but I can say that I was very happy to see Doug at our host that night with a smile on his face.]]>
This may have been one of my favorite days visually. The morning dawned chilly and overcast. I like that kind of weather, I find it very peaceful. We were to ride 78 miles over Snowy Range Road, climbing up to 10,137 ft, our highest point on the entire trip. I rode with Seddy, Brad, and Sophie that day, a strong group and all people that I absolutely love. Everyone was in rain coats, arm warmers, and leg warmers that day, and I finally got out the one pair of warm wool socks that I had brought just for this occasion.
We began the day with a dark mountain brooding on the horizon and the land rocky in every direction. We had stayed abreast of the situation with the fires, but according to inciweb.org, the fires were a good 10+ miles to the south. The team took one water break at the base of the mountain, and then we began our climb. Seddy’s leg was hurting her that day, so she told us to go on ahead. (I made sure to double check, and yes, she did mean it.) Brad soon outpaced the entire team, and I climbed steadily, passing people along the way, but stopping to take pictures and enjoy myself. I really enjoyed the challenge of the climb, and kept in mind all of the people that I had dedicated my day to in order to keep myself going. “Put them on top of this mountain,” Chey had said. I can be a bit competitive, so when I saw somebody ahead of me, I used it to motivate me and tried to pass them. Somedays and some climbs I help out my teammates, but there was an agreement within my team that everyone was going to take this hill at his/her own pace, since it was so long and steep. I was again glad for all of the training that I had put in beforehand, as I soon had snow speckled mountains in view, with their tops hidden in the clouds.
Our group rejoined at the top, with many victorious pictures taken. However, a thunderstorm was rolling in, so it was soon time to get going. The teams got jumbled around, and as Brad, Zach, and I were eager to outpace the storm, we began our long descent first. Zach being Zach was soon hitting 40+ mph while Brad and I were a bit more conservative. (Actually, due to Brad’s gearing, he is unable to get as fast as Zach.) The rain began in earnest about 10 minutes after we left the top, and there was no doubt that we were inside the storm cloud. The rain pelted down, obscuring my glasses, stinging my eyes, and forcing me to stop and get out my biker’s cap to help give my eyeballs some cover. The thunder sounded like fireworks begin detonated, it was so close. I did not trust my brakes, so I kept trying to keep my speed down, rather than getting up to 40+mph and getting out of control. Unfortunately, this meant that Bradley and I got separated and with all the weather, we got out of shouting range and then visual range very quickly. I got to a particularly steep descent and the slick road plus the water on my wheels got me going faster and faster. My back wheel started to wobble very badly, due to my chills and the insecurly installed rack with my weighty rack pack on top. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared on a bike before, and I thought I was about to crash any second. I got to a moment when I seriously considered if I was going to need to go off the road into a ditch to slow down, when the descent leveled out enough for me to get myself to a full stop.
After a much needed breather, I began to descend again. The rain let up a bit, and several passing mountain bikers offered me a ride to the bottom of the mountain or wherever. I’m stubborn when I want to be, and with the storm lessening, I politely declined, and decided to keep going on my own. I passed by a small cafe off the road, but not knowing Brad or Zach’s status, I decided to keep going to see if I could catch up.
I had just reached partially blue skies when a truck pulled up behind me. Apparently Brad had stopped at the cafe, and when he saw me speed by, asked if anyone with a truck would be willing to go out and bring me back. A very kind Dr. John finally offered to do so, and I can’t say that I was unhappy to get off the road for a while. Brad and I were both soaked to the bone, and stripped off as many layers as we could in that little cafe, the Rendezvous Lodge. Kathy, the owner, kindly gave us free coffee and offered to throw our clothes in the dryer. Eventually, a number of other Team Portland cyclists whizzed by, and we were able to get them into the cafe. Soon, we had all ordered food, hot chocolate, and Kathy was drying all of our wet gear.
With the storm abating, it was eventually time to get back on the road. Sophie was helping to sort out Ami’s bike that had gotten run over (no one was hurt fortunately, but the bike was totaled) so I rode with Ally, Brad, and Sohum, and those last twenty miles to the host were some of the prettiest and easiest we had seen. The sun came out, and it was almost all a decline into Saratoga. We easily coasted along at 18+miles per hour.
When we finally reached Saratoga, we headed for the natural public hot springs, where the water temperature was over 100 degrees farenheit. I spoke with an older cancer survivor who told me about his 10 year journey through stomach and kidney cancer, as well as his time in the service. I also started chatting with a girl who, in one of the strangest coincidences of my entire life, turned out to be Ally Sterner, the daughter of my 6th grade science teacher, Mr. Bill Sterner. 2000+ miles from home and I run into someone from my small home city.
We got Mr. Sterner on the phone, and despite not having seen me for the past 14 years, he instantly remembered me, even calling me by my 6th grade nickname, The Professor. Ally informed him all about my ride, and they were both visibly touched, as their family had recently had two members experience cancer, Tom and Sarah. Both have since become regular fixtures in my daily dedications.
The day to Saratoga was incredible: scenic, challenging, scary, cold, beautiful, and capped off by an amazing chance meeting.]]>
It would be impossible to begin writing in one post from day one of the trip because there are too many things that have happened. My highlights from the trip have definitely been my low points too. The hardest days have been the best in the end.
We stayed in Chicago for a rest day in the University of Illinois dorms. It was such a treat to be in the middle of the city in real BEDS and in our OWN rooms. The rest day was a lot of fun as we stayed with Team Seattle and got to meet them as well as to have a lot of free time to explore. After being in small towns for so long through Ohio, Indiana, and the beginning of Illinois, a city was a very welcome place to stay. Leaving Chicago, we knew we would have one of our tougher days as it was the teams first century! We were riding from Chicago to Sterling Illinois, which was 117 miles. Usually a day like this would begin with a wake up around 4 and departure 6 at the latest, but in Chicago, we were scheduled to be on the CBS morning show, so we were not able to depart until 7:30 or 8. Since it was supposed to be such a difficult day, we had chosen our own groups and I was with my good friends who make up team DYLF. We are an extremely dynamic group. Everyone brings their own individual part to the overall group dynamic. We ended up leaving, with Matt in the back of the group begging us to stop at the nearest Dunkin Donuts or coffee shop. We denied his requests and pleas since we had such a late start that morning anyway. We biked our way out of the city and then onto the bike trail that we would be on for at least forty miles before getting on the roads and highways of Illinois suburbs and later the farm-country. During the ride on teh trail, Sohum managed to get three flat tires. Zee patiently changed each tire while the rest of the group napped and played on a nearby playground. We were very behind the rest of the teams, but for some reason we all held a nonchalant attitude towards the remaining 100 miles we had in front of us. After finally replacing Sohums wheel with someone else’s wheel, there would be no more flat tires for the day- at least. From mile 40 to mile 60, we had an extremely difficult time. We were now off the trails from the city, and were now on a busy 4 lane road through suburbs. It was unbearably hot, at least 100 degrees, and there were such strong headwinds. We were pushing so hard to get through the headwinds and heat and were EXHAUSTED biking and not to mention LOST. We were biking around a coldasac of a neighborhood and went into an open garage to find an elderly man inside at his workbench. He asked all about what we were doing and ended up bringing out water bottles and then letting us inside to cool off and use his bathroom. After a 45 minute stay in his house, he took pictures of us and then directed Dale and Zee to the correct trail we were supposed to be on. We then had all 20 miles to mile 60 to bike because we had just been lost the whole time before. We finally got to mile 60, at least 2 hours later due to the ruthless headwinds and heat. Once we got to mile 60, lunch was waiting for us and so were the van drivers. The wind was so intense that all of the wrappers and lunch supplies were flying away. Chey was a van driver that day and had spent his whole time at the lunch stop running after stray materials that would find themselves on the other side of the parking lot. After a nice break, we had a daunting 60 more miles to bike that day and it was already late- at least 3:30. We silently left lunch with the ominous remaining ride looming over us. The next 60 mile stretch to Sterling was made up of a single lane highway and cornfields. There were no houses along the road, not even farm houses, no roads, and a handful of gas stations. We were silent most of the way as the wind was in our faces at 40 mph. the whole way. The cornfields did not block the wind at all. The majority of the traffic on the single lane highway were sixteen wheel tractor trailers that would tear past us while we were trying to balance on the foot wide shoulder, and would end up knocking us off the road completely. Around mile seventy we stopped at a gas station for some relief from the road. We were all at a loss for words from what we were trying to endure and were not feeling to well from the heat. While I was sitting outside the gas station with Zee, Matt, and Sohum, a man got out of his car and asked us sarcastically why we thought it would be a good idea to bike in this kind of heat. We looked at each other and laughed; we bike everyday. At that point I was able to think about all of the people I was riding for and recollected myself to try and tackle the great winds and heat once again. We then made it to the next water stop, and were all delirious at this point. The long day was wearing on us and all we could do was laugh. We started to have more fun and now that the sun was starting to go down and it was late afternoon, we were now able to chat with each other. Sohum was cramping up pretty badly and managed to keep going anyway peddaling with one leg. Dale, Sohum and I chatted with Matt while and Nellie were in the front pushing pretty hard listening to loud music. At the one hundred mile mark, we got off our bikes and crawled over the marked line and took a picture for the group photograph contest of the day. We then kept on biking in the twilight sky with the promise of only seventeen more miles. The sun was setting over the fields and the wind was calm, finally. It began to get really dark and was well past 9 pm when we were only 5 miles away from the town. We ended up escaping a van pickup due to darkness and got into the host around 10:15.
The ride into Sterling was the longest day I have had on the trip, but it is a testament to how much one can push themselves. Riding is extremely mental and it is amazing how much one can endure when truly put to the test. Even though there were many mental barriers I had to get over in order to finish the day, the biggest help was my team. It helps tremendously to have people next to you, pushing you, motivating you, and being supportive. Without my team to laugh at the hard parts and enjoy the good parts of the ride, I would not have been able to keep the mentality that was necessary to finish the hard day. The mental and physical struggles and the completion of the day next to my group made the ride into Sterling one of the best and most memorable days on the trip!]]>
Rawlins is an interesting place. I drove that day with Rambo, because my knee was hurting a bit after the big day into Saratoga. We passed a few other cyclists who were doing unsupported tours. They stopped at our water breaks and we chatted a while. I am so amazed at their dedication and how freaking heavy their bikes are, up to 80 lbs.! There are definitely pros and cons to each way of crossing the country, but I am definitely/obviously loving the 4K.
That day, I saw one of my teammates (who shall be unnamed) in a way that I have never seen him, as he was very upset that we ended up having to re-route onto the interstate. He was quite angry that I knew that we might have to go onto the interstate, as I knew there was some doubt as to the accuracy of the google map route that I had devised, but had not informed the whole group as such. In my defense, a) I did spot check the roads, but apparently not extensively enough b) it is legal for cyclists and farm equipment to ride on the interstate in Wyoming c) the adventure cycling route goes onto the interstate as well. We did speak about it and work it out, however it reminded me of one of the many leadership lessons I have learned on this trip, how important it is to manage people’s expectations. The end result might be the same in terms of the physical actions taken, but emotionally people always feel better if they can anticipate what is ahead. Even if you warn people about uncertainty, that is still better than just springing things on them.
The pastor at the church we stayed at in Rawlins warned us not to go out at night, due to “coyotes, snakes, and prison breaks”. Fun! Sounds like a Tom Waits song. Kevin and I briefly played “Star Wars: Battlefront” on a Playstation that happened to have at the church. We also got in a day of core and lifting exercise, something I try to do every other day or so, as much as possible. Some people might say that biking for an average of 70 miles a day is enough exercise. Some people might say that I am crazy for wanting to workout more after all that cardio anyway. I am not some people.
Day 44 7/9/12: Rawlins to Jeffrey City
We stopped at a gas station where not just the bathroom walls, but the walls of the store, the pillars, the ceiling, everything was covered with signatures of the travelers who had passed through there, both motorists and cyclists. We found some older 4K tags and inscribed ours as well. The signings seemed to be a recent development as the oldest tag I saw was from 2007 or so. I chatted with some touring cyclists about how difficult it is to eat a healthy diet on in the west/mid-west.
Unfortunately, the family who owned the shop had a little boy of 3 or so named Simmon who had just been diagnosed with cancer. A lot of Team Portland wrote his name on our arms that day. It was poignant as well because my good friend Kale had asked me on July 4th to dedicate a ride to a friend of a friend’s little 2 year old girl named Maya. I had just found out the night before that little Maya lost her battle and had passed away. I had never met her before, and didn’t know her parents even, but it very much upset me and has stayed with me throughout the trip.
A few miles after we left the gas station, we arrived at Split Rock, which was apparently a big landmark on the Oregon Trail. The valley strectched out all around us for miles, and we spent hours climbing, taking pictures, sitting, sleeping, and even playing guitar and singing on those rocks. It was magical and I fell in love with 4K yet again.
Once we reached Jeffrey City, I chatted with another cyclists who was going alone, unsupported from West to East. She was originally from Australia, and we talked for a while about her journey in life that had brought her to that little bar in a town of literally about 50 people. Apparently, they took some poetic license when they named the town Jeffrey City.]]>
Biking into Colorado was definitely an exciting moment for all of us because we felt like we finally were entering the west coast. It’s funny though because everyone pictures mountains, hiking, biking, and skiing when they think of Colorado. However, the eastern part of Colorado is very flat and very agricultural and looks pretty similar to Nebraska. Our day biking into Yuma was pretty tough with rough head winds the last 20 miles and hot weather. I rode with Jasper, Yoshi, Brad, and Ally and Jasper complained about the lack of mountains but we promised him that we would be seeing mountains soon enough.
We also were concerned biking into Colorado because of all the forest fires that had been taking over. Fortunately, by the time we got to Colorado most of the fires were contained, but there was a lot of haze and smoke in the air still which made breathing hard for some of our riders.
Our hosts in Yuma were wonderful as always. They too were long time repeat hosts and we got homestays that evening! My host had a gorgeous home and we each got our own comfy beds to sleep in. It was probably the best sleep that I had gotten on the trip so far!
Day 38: Fort Morgan, CO—The Day I went to the Hospital :(
So yes….it happened….I had to go to the hospital on this trip. Do not worry though! I am perfectly fine and it was nothing serious….more just precautionary. And also apparently I like falling off my bike
It was unfortunate because it was an extremely lovely ride from Yuma to Fort Morgan. Because it was so easy and lovely I was not paying attention as well as I should. I hit the rumble strip on the side of the shoulder when I only had one hand on my handlebars and I took a bad spill. I ended up cracking my helmet, though not seriously and I had a rather large hole in my arm!
I went to the hospital and they said my head was fine and although the hole in my arm was somewhat serious, it was to wide and jagged to stitch, so I would just have to bandage it on my own. O WELL! It is doing much better now and is feeling great! I will have some great stories to come up with once my scar appears
Day 39: Denver, CO
Drove the van since I fell the day before. However, my fellow van driver Nellie and I got some great food donations! Chick-Fil-A for lunch along with chips and guacamole and Olive Garden for dinner! Also, I got a special visitor in Denver…my boyfriend Jon flew in to visit me which was awesome!
Day 40 & 41: Boulder, CO
I drove the van on our day into Boulder as well because Jon was in the van with me. However, it was a great day because we met up with the San Francisco team in Denver and biked with them into Boulder. Although I love my team dearly, it is nice to have some fresh faces to talk to during the day. It is also really interesting comparing our experiences with theirs. There really is no 4K that is alike!
The scenery in Boulder was absolutely amazing! Again, it was a little smoky and hazy so it was difficult to get a really spectacular view of the mountains, but the view was still really awesome. We had been waiting to see mountains for so long and it was great to finally get to see them up close and personal!
Then once I arrived in Boulder I had another wonderful surprise. Not only had I received a care package from my parents….but I had it hand delivered by my sister who flew out to Boulder to visit me! I felt so fortunate to have both my boyfriend and my sister visiting with me for two days. It was nice to get a taste of home. It was a great time for them to come too because quite a few alumni from 4K’s past flew into Denver and biked with us to Boulder. All of the alumni I met were wonderful and it was once again nice to have some new company to talk to.
Boulder was exactly what the doctor ordered…..relaxing, refreshing, restful, and beautiful! I definitely want to go back and spend more time there and in Denver. But alas nothing lasts to long on the 4K. Each new day brings a new place and new experience]]>
As of 7/18, there will only be 17 days of 4K ’12 left.
Time must fly when you are having fun because I still vividly remember packing luggage in to the vans for the very first time on May 27th, and awkwardly waiting around at sendoff, not knowing when to say goodbye to my family and friends.
We, the riders, must rely on our blogs (or lack off), personal diaries, and pictures to help us recall days past because the days are speeding by so fast that they are starting to blend together. Personally, I enjoy using pictures to track this trip.
I have noticed that all the pictures we take and share are only during moments of triumph and victory. The pictures are of us on top of mountains, at the new state borders, or enjoying the company of our dear teammates.
However, there are no pictures of us during our hardest struggles, when our knees literally feel like they are going to fall off, biking up miles of inclines, or at the end of centuries, where all we want to do is cocoon inside our sleeping-bags. If these pictures of these moments were shared, it would capture a lot of salt crusted, grimy, and sticky faces.
While not really picaresque, I personally feel that It is during these moments of struggle that we really doing our job of cycling, inspiring, and uniting. The only thing that motives me to keep on pedaling is all of the amazing stories and fighters we have met along the way.
Since we don’t have any pictures of us in moments of pain, here are some pictures of us in our victory and celebration.
The next 1,000 miles will be dedicated to Chey, Jake G., Yoshi, Maya, Alli, Ralph, and everyone I have met along the way!
There is joy in the struggle.]]>
As far as the ride is concerned, it was rather ordinary, with no major problems or surprises. There were only about fifty miles to ride into Missoula, a distance that has become utterly short for us. (Some riders even opted not to stop for water at all.) We followed a bike path for a good portion of the route, to which we were directed by Joel, our incomparable host from last night. Despite the commanding mountains on all sides, we were able to follow the perfectly flat Bitterroot Valley all the way to Missoula, with the peaks providing only a nice view and not a physical challenge for the riders.
Once we got to our lunch stop on the outskirts of Missoula, we found out about the situation at Camp Māk-a-Dream and started making arrangements to go to the Presbyterian church that will be hosting us. Alex needed to go to the airport to run some errands in San Francisco, so I took the opportunity to switch places with her: I got on her bike and finished the rest of the few miles into the host while she rode in the van. This sneaky way of getting back on the bike gave me a chance to test out riding over a few miles, and everything felt great. As long as I take it easy and listen to my body, I’m confident I’ll be able to get back to riding soon.
Once we unloaded all our luggage at the First Presbyterian Church, we headed out for Camp Māk-a-Dream. It’s located in the middle of rural Montana, about sixty miles east of Missoula. As we approached we could make out a few solitary buildings against the flowing green landscape. Walking up to the main office, we spotted a rock wall and places for archery lessons, but no one seemed to be around. We finally met a few staff members at the administration building, and they introduced us to the camp. It’s run largely by young adult cancer survivors who have dedicated their summer to helping kids affected by cancer. Each cohort of children stays there for a week, during which time they can do whatever they want: sit by the campfire, go on hikes, swim, ride a zip line, make pottery, and so much more. Since it’s medically supported, they have an opportunity to have a camp experience just like anyone else’s and rejuvenate as they go through often-arduous treatment.
While they were still in the middle of their daily activities, we were allowed to wander around the camp and have fun with the rock wall. A number of us hiked to the top of the largest mountain in the immediate area, from which we were able to see for miles. Though it was only an 800-foot ascent, it was easily the steepest hill I’ve climbed, and it was rewarding to finally make it to the top (and to make it down safely, too). After the kids congregated for evening activities, we joined them and had the chance to meet a number of true characters. They were in a playful mood, and we played some games with them and helped them put up tents, a chore that was turned into a race. The camp coordinators were kind enough to let us join the group for dinner, which was a classic kid-friendly combination of hot dogs and macaroni and cheese.
Just as we were finishing dinner, dark rainclouds started to form above us, and bolts of lightning could be seen in the distance. We immediately had to pack everything up and move inside before a torrential downpour brought a cool darkness over the camp. The people at Camp Māk-a-Dream didn’t let this turn of events slow them down, though, since we were able to have our “camp out” in the lodge, complete with s’mores and campfire sing-a-longs. As the finale, they invited us to provide a rendition of some of our songs from our Minneapolis variety show, which seemed to entertain everyone in attendance, not the least of whom being the rest of the 4K team. We left on a high note, having gotten to experience some of the wonderful things they do at this camp.
By eleven o’clock we finally made our way back to Missoula, where we’ll stay for a rest day. Tomorrow we’ll get a chance to explore the city as well as spend some more time with the kids from Camp Māk-a-Dream who are going on a field trip to a water park and to the downtown carousel. It will be great to see them once more, and all of us will enjoy having some rest in Missoula before moving ever northward toward Glacier National Park.]]>
Day 50: Jackson, WY to Idaho Falls, ID
Miles:88 Amazing scenery…but to long of a day.
Today we woke up at 4:30, got everything cleaned up nicely at the church, had breakfast, got into groups and began to ride towards the challenge of the day, The Grand Teton Pass. We were to climb around 2000ft in about 4 miles. There were two options, the highway or a bike path. We took the bike path, even though it was steeper to keep off of the road. We rode about 15 miles to the mountain, which served as a good warm up. I was riding with Dale, Sophie, Christine, Collette and Andrea. There was a water stop at the bottom of the mountain, I quickly got water and started my accent. We were allowed to break off from our groups for the climb. (YAY!) I have really grown to like climbing during this trip and to climb a mountain like this was amazing! The grade for the trail ranged from about 5% to 11%. I kept a steady pace the entire time, knocking it out in about 35 minutes. I pushed myself for this climb. I knew there was a gnarly downhill at the bottom so I would have plenty of time to recover. Once I reached the summit I rode back down the trail, about a mile or so, just to see if people needed some inspiration .
Once everyone made it to the top, we took some short videos for fcanerup.com and also for Jake, Chey’s pedal pal, who is going to Germany for cancer treatment. We spent about one and a half hours there waiting for everyone to get to the top.
We flew down the mountain, trying not to fly off the edge. At the bottom of the mountain lies the state line for Idaho. We got some pictures together and continued. There were two more steep climbs today, one of which I took my time riding alongside Andrea, and the other I pushed hard again.
We didn’t get in until around 630, and had to rush to get showers at 7 before a gym closed. We got showered up, had awesome tacos, worked on my bike and called it a night.
I had to replace my cleats mid ride.
Dura Ace Wheels are legit!
Each team has created a thank you clip. Please check it out!
And thanks again!]]>
Day 28 & 29: Omaha, NE
when we first rode into omaha, we were a little concerned about having homestays for our service day since that would mean TWO whole days of not sleeping all together and more logistics to coordinate getting everyone together to do service but we got over that quickly when we met the church community that we were staying with. my homestay was with the katherein family. lynn and her husband were absolutely amazing to collette and i for the two days we were in their home (thank you so much if you guys are reading this!) it was the first time that a homestay made me homesick just due to how much it felt like my life back in boston. simple things like just having granola and a banana for breakfast while reading the newspaper and not being in any sort of rush to put sunblock on or get the van packed felt amazing. their daughter, emily, did bike and build last year so lynn showed us her pictures from their ride. its funny how similar all of our pictures look, but then again i guess 20 college kids in spandex on the open road with corn and sky is always going to look pretty much the same. lynn lost her mother to ovarian cancer when she was 26, right after her daughter emily was born. she shared with me how thankful she was that she was able to know how much her mother loved her from having a daughter of her own and being able to tell her mother that before she passed away. i dedicated the day’s ride out of omaha to lynn and her mother.
on our service day, we met at the church and made videos for our pedal pals, which showed off the team’s creative side (or lack thereof depending on who we’re talking about). that night, our hosts and the whole team met at the lake house of the Neary’s (one of the parish members who was hosting riders) for the most amazing barbeque. we were able to meet all of the wonderful people in their community, including Dan Grant, who is a young adult recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. it was so great to meet him, since he is our age and that is who the Ulman Cancer Fund specifically tries to help. the church gave us bracelets to wear that say “#teamdan” and “you are never alone” which we have all been wearing since. the barbeque was one of the many times on this trip that i looked around and thought to myself how lucky i am to be surrounded by the people that i am and how glad i am that i found out about the 4K and decided to do it.
Day 30: Lincoln, NE
its been a running joke that kevin says he would do ridiculous things for people who get his favorite foods as donations. the places he has been constantly mentioning for the past month were five guys, chipotle, brueggers bagels, and noodles and co. leaving omaha, kevin and i were in the lunch van and had quite the challenge set before us when yoshi told us that we didnt have any meals provided until dinner the following night and we should try to fill in the blanks. we scored 27 meals at five guys for lunch, 27 burritos at chipotle for dinner, 3 dozen bagels from brueggers, a $100 gift card from a local organic co-op grocery store, and then 27 meals at noodles and co for lunch the next day. kevin and i won the lunch van, no need to continue anymore. 4k over, we can all go home.
Day 31: Fairbury, NE
this was the start of our 4am adventures. when we were in omaha, we looked ahead at the weather and it was not a pretty sight. there was not a day that week where the high was less than 102 degrees. so we started waking up at 4am to try and get as much of the day done as possible before the worst of the heat hit. we formed team birthday girl named in honor of trish and the begininng of her 20th year! we killed time by playing a vocabulary game where you can’t use any words containing a certain letter (ours was S. try it sometime, as it is quite difficult). the church when we got into fairbury brought us to an amazing dinner at this gorgeous house on a little manmade pond. the house itself was so incredible and cushy that we could have easily had the whole team stay there comfortably. they treated us to an enormous buffet of food including delicious barbeque meatballs and then afterward set out a second enormous buffet of dessert! they definitely knew the way to a 4Kers heart is through our stomachs. homestays were planned but because of our 4am wakeup, the whole team stayed at the church so we could get ready for the long day ahead.
Day 32: Franklin, NE
we knew that going into franklin was going to be a 100+ mile ride and then on top of that, the high temperature for the day was showing at about 114 degrees. chey and kevin set the cutoff time at 2pm. wherever your group was at 2pm was where you were stopping and being shuttled from because it would be unsafe to bike after that. unfortunately, it got unbearably hot much earlier in the day and we had to stop around mile 70 at about 12:30pm. luckily, my group (kevin, sophie, and christine) were able to meet up with the remnants of DYLF (nellie, sohum and dale) and we stopped in a gas station. we finally got into fairbury and were greeted by a wonderful community dinner. they are a very longstanding host, having been on the 4K route for the past 9 years. they printed out all our profiles and posted them on the walls along with blog posts about franklin all the way back to 2003! sometimes i forget that many of these people have been involved with the 4K for so much longer than we have and its cool to think that we’re having the same experience at a host that the 2005 Baltimore to San Fran ride did.
Day 33 & 34: Arapahoe, NE
since the beginning of the trip, chey has been talking about how much he loves arapahoe. he told us that it was everyones favorite host from the year before and about all of the awesome things that they did there. so needless to say, there were some pretty high expectations for the little town. and they did NOT disappoint at all. we had homestays, but it wasn’t like our typical homestays where we don’t see the other people that are at different houses until the whole group gets back together. since arapahoe is so small, we could basically walk between everyone’s houses to anything in town and back within 5-10 minutes. some of the boys were staying at the hunt nebraska lodge, which acted as our headquarters while we were there. nate (one of the managers at hunt nebraska) was extremely generous and brought us out to go trap shooting on our day off! i was able to hit 4 out of the 25 clay pigeons that we each had as our moving targets. my dad was a hunter and i guess i inherited his shot (which explains why they didn’t get deer when hunting very often.) we also took many trips over to the arapahoe pharmacy, where we enjoyed a traditional soda fountain that you would mix the syrup into the liquid and carbonate it. seddy and i stayed with a lovely woman, lila, who showed us her whole life. she brought us on a tour of the farm lands and construction company that their family owns, took us to meet all of her family in town, and shared her journey with cancer and other medical ailments.
Day 35: Imperial, NE
usually when the 4K has been staying at a host for a long time, we know that they know what to expect. we’re going to eat a lot. we’re going to be loud. we’re going to still be active even after biking however many miles earlier that day. on the other hand, first time hosts are sometimes taken aback by all of these things. imperial was the best first time host the 4K could ever ask for. upon crossing the town limits, the church made us awesome signs that said “welcome 4K to imperial, NE” and arrows showing Baltimore 1495 miles to the east and Portland 1377 miles to the west. when we got there, we were immediately greeted with root beer floats and ice cream. alice had been reading our blog posts (lets be honest, mostly brad’s) and knew that once we get into a town, the first thing we usually do is seek out a local ice cream shop. they also arranged a water fight with some of the kids from the church (which was my personal favorite), brought out sparring gear for us to play around with, and popped popcorn to go with the movie projector.
all in all, we’re all going to come back and visit next year’s team portland for the entirety of the state of nebraska. the souvenir i bought in lincoln was foreshadowing the rest of our time there: a tshirt with the outline of nebraska and inside the text “best. state. ever.”]]>
We’re not cyclists, it’s just a little foray.
We’ll do four hundred miles in four days,
and that’s our warm-up, just like foreplay.
So come for a day with team Portland. Goin’ to Oregon;
Comin’ from Baltimore, ‘cuz that’s our origin.
Yeah, Seattle and SF do four thousand,
But we’re doing eight hundred more than them.
It’s like we’re warning them. It’s no joke.
What’s the problem, punk? Is your bicycle broke?
Stay in the back and taste our smoke.
Breathe it in deep and try not to choke.
Because you can bike fast, but we bike faster though.
It’s like you’ve never even cycled through Arapahoe,
and so while we wait we’re gonna rap some mo’,
and if you try to pass us? We’re gonn’ cap ya, yo.]]>
Our ride from Laramie to Saratoga included our first big climb since the Appalachians. Hell, it included our first topographical feature that could be described as more than a bump since the Appalachians. The ascent was completely breathtaking: pine-spotted mountains on either side, a meandering stream of snowmelt, and deer and pronghorns no more than fifteen feet away from me. At the top of the mountain, we were over 10,000 feet above sea level, and clouds floated along beside us, shrouding the nearby mountains. It was awesome.
And then it rained. A massive thunderstorm moved in on us immediately after I began my descent (which was as gorgeous as the climb: crystal clear lakes to the right, canyons and mountain creeks flowing to the left). When lightning struck insanely close to me, I pulled off the road, and hung out in a ditch on the opposite side of the road as my bike. I pulled the other riders off the road as they passed me, but, because we were on top of a mountain in wet clothes with high winds, we were freezing. Picture yourself, a motorist off to do some sight-seeing with your spouse and two young children, when you turn a corner around a mountain and see a dozen college-aged students cuddling on the side of the road to stay warm. That’s what folks saw as they passed us.
Once the lightning cooled off, we continued on our way down the mountain, but the rain was still pouring. Our shoes quickly filled with small ponds of lakewater, and in my utter delirium I shouted absurdities I can’t even remember (although among them was “DO IT FOR THE COFFEE. THERE WILL BE COFFEE AT THE BOTTOM. DO IT FOR THE COFFEE. HOT, STRONG COFFEE!” Truth be told, I was having a great time. At the bottom of the mountain was a small diner (slash general store; they sold WD-40, beer, and nightcrawlers). The team pulled in, bought ourselves lunch and coffee (there was coffee), and threw our outerwear into the dryer (because the restaurant had a dryer).
Finally the rain stopped, the sun came out, the wind calmed down, and the day became B-E-A-Utiful. we assembled into our ride groups and made our way out once again, along the almost completely downhill road into Saratoga, Wyoming. Except for a phone call. I was informed by another rider that Ami, a rider who had stopped a mile or so down the road, had had her bike (while she was safely inside the building) run over by a massive truck. I was riding with our mechanic, Sir Bradley of Allengton, so we made our way down the road to assess the damage.
It was bad. Her back wheel was completely ruined; her frame was shot. Brad saw it from the road and said it was totalled before he even pulled up. We were able to salvage some components (the fork seemed ok; the spds were fine, and her back tube was even alright). But nothing could be done that very moment, so onward we road, into Saratoga, land of hot springs, strange hometown meetups, and musical instruments.
BUT THEN JACKSON HAPPENED.
Several days later, we rode from Dubois, WY to Jackson Hole. The climb at the top of the day didn’t seem like much, but we gained a good amount of elevation. Again, the scenery was incredible. But we hadn’t seen anything yet. A couple miles after the descent began, we had to dismount because of road construction, and we road with our bikes in the pickup trucks that the construction workers used as guide (“mother duck”) cars. Once we got back on, we only had about 2 miles to go before we first saw the tetons.
The Tetons were in our view for the latter 40 miles of the day, they just got bigger and bigger as we pedaled. It was probably the most gorgeous day on the 4K for Cancer (and I can say that having done the SF route; everyone knows Seattle has nothing on us ). But that was only half the excitement! Two of our groups stopped to take pictures, and we saw – far in the distance – an enormous buffalo. I mean, this buffalo was huge. And we realized, after a few minutes, that he was getting closer. And then we realized, after a few more moments, that he was big enough that he wouldnt’ care much about the 3-foot tall wooden “fence” that separated him from us. And then we realized that he was around 20 lateral feet away from us. He jumped the fence, charged across the road, and chilled out, grazin’ on some sweet grass, on the other side of the road. We waited for him to calm down a bit before we kept riding into Jackson, home of 20% mark-ups, breakfast buffets, and olde-tyme photos.]]>
Today Jasper, Alex and I rode together. When I heard we were having a 28 mile day, I wanted to see how fast I could ride for those 28 miles. Kevin allowed us to ride unsupported for the day. (not going to water stops). I had originally asked Yoshi, but he wanted to participate todays Scavenger Hunt…something we do on short days for fun. To me, going as hard as possible is fun, ha. This was a good day to do this because there are a small amount of directions, which means most of the miles come from a single road. We had about 26 miles on a main road, which had a couple of stop lights, but we got lucky with the majority of them being green.
We took 5 minute intervals pulling the group. I haven’t ridden with Alex in a fast group yet, but I knew he was quick. Alex held up with Jasper and I for the entire day, I was excited that he kept up the entire time and had really good pulls.
We finished the day quickly, getting chocolate milk and ice cream before getting to the host. After that, it was a pretty good day, worked on some bikes, did laundry, took a nap and had a really awesome dinner.
Longer ride tomorrow, curious to see how I feel after pushing it full throttle today.
Thank for reading, and take care!
Before today I thought I had nothing left to prove to anyone on this trip. I had ridden my hardest, been contributing to the team and doing everything I thought I could…until today. The last thing I had to prove was to myself. I had to prove that I could push myself and do anything I set my mind to as long as I had the willpower to do it. Climbing a total of over 9000 feet in 71 miles was the true test. I was able to ride by myself today and slowly realized that this trip has allowed me to grow and (hopefully) mature in ways I never thought possible. I left everything I had on the road today and will only feel this sense of accomplishment again once I get to San Francisco. See you all there in 17 days!!!]]>
That night we had a wonderful dinner prepared by church members and, as usual, shared a snippet of why we each ride. What made yesterday so cool, though, was that almost every member of the community that came out to dinner shared one of their experiences. I was touched. Cancer is ubiquitous. It causes hurt in so many lives. But to have the chance to be together, to share how it’s affected us, and to see that we’re not alone is a genuine blessing. I am moved by all the stories that were shared last night.]]>
Before dinner our riders helped the campers set up tents. I was paired with a girls’ cabin and had an absolutely amazing time getting to know the ladies. With our expert tent assembling skills we were able to lead the girls to victory in the race to set up a tent the fastest. Afterwards we ended up playing games and grabbing dinner and I got to know of few of the campers better. It was wonderful getting to know Mariah, Meckenna (sorry about the spelling!), and Bella – a 12 year old who has already finished a half marathon. That’s nuts! Bella tried pawning a hair tie off on me under the guise of a “bracelet to remember her by”. But dang, here I am sporting a lavender hair tie on my left wrist along side my 4k for cancer wristband that my dad made for me and my livestrong bracelet. And everytime I see that hair tie it brings a smile to my face. Thanks Bella for the inspiration. I’ll be thinking of you on the rest of my ride and will surely be dedicating some days to you. Stay strong, kiddo!
Right now almost all of Team Seattle is out exploring Missoula. Typically I’d be right there with them, but tonight I’m left with my thoughts after our trip to Camp Mak-a-Dream. I’ve met quite a few people who have battled cancer on this trip. I haven’t, however, had the chance to meet so many kids who are dealing with it themselves. I’m not sure how to feel. Part of me is furious. It brings back all these memories of how mad I was when my dad was sick. Mad that cancer essentially took away my senior year of high school with him. I’m mad that cancer caused him to be so ill for so long. And to know that the campers I met today are going through what he went through eats me up. All I want to do is hop on my bike and pedal as fast as I can. No one should have to deal with any uncertainty regarding health at that age. My heart goes out to them. At the same time, though, I’ve learned that a lot of my attitude toward cancer is dependent on how I choose to look at it. I think it’s natural to be mad, to be sad, and to want more than anything to change the circumstances. But in a lot of ways good things have come out of my experiences with cancer. I think about my dad every day on this trip. I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt so close to him, especially considering how far away he is. It’s also exposed me to an incredible, inspirational strength in all of the patients and survivors I’ve met. That keeps me going even when I feel like quitting. I was genuinely touched by all the campers I met today and I know that they’re going to grow up to be strong, wonderful individuals. I owe a huge thank you to everyone I met at Camp Mak-a-Dream today. The staff for all their hard work, the volunteers for taking time out of their lives to help out, and of course, the campers. Thank you.]]>
Sorry for my once again delayed blogging! This blog is dedicated to the absolutely wonderful people of Nebraska! I had traveled a good bit before I embarked on this journey, but I had never been to the midwest before. So I was definitely unsure of what to expect when we got to Nebraska. Fortunately, I was surprised to find that the people in Nebraska are some of the nicest people in the world. I was not surprised to see that we were still surrounded by quite a bit of corn
Day 28-29: Omaha, NE
We were very fortunate to have a rest day in Omaha, NE and in addition to that we had home stays as well! The ride into Omaha was a little dreary at first with rain, wind, and hills the devils trio for cyclists. But eventually the sun came out and the ride turned into a series of rolling hills. We didn’t cross into Nebraska on the highway, but instead on a walking bridge. So our state line picture was a little different.
Once again I had the most fabulous host for my home stay. The other Sarah and I were fortunate enough to stay with a lovely woman named Pam Seina. Pam had two children Mia and AJ and two adorable dogs as well! A home stay was just what the doctor ordered. We got in on Saturday evening and had a group dinner at the church. Then we went back to Pam’s house where she made us cookies in her gorgeous kitchen which I hope to have one similar too some day Sarah and I slept in her basement on an incredibly plush couch and because we were in the basement, I was able to sleep in till 8am the next morning. (Yes unfortunately 8am is now considered sleeping in).
Upon waking up in the morning, I was able to enjoy the most relaxing and normal morning I have had so far on the 4K. I did all the things any normal person would do on a Sunday morning. I had a delicious freshly made breakfast of eggs with toast and enjoyed a fresh cup of coffee while reading the news on my computer. That is definitely something I have missed on this trip….the news. I feel like the world could have practically exploded and we would have absolutely no idea because we are all wrapped up tightly in the 4K bubble.
Then after a relaxing morning, we went to one of the other church members house on the lake for a group picnic. All of our team members and their host families were there. We met a young man named Dan there who is going through his cancer treatment right now and it really hit home with all of us because he is in his twenties. We all got bracelets from him that say “#TeamDan” and “You Are Never Alone” I have worn it every day since.
Day 30: Lincoln, NE
The ride into Lincoln was really great as well. But unfortunately I had a fall this day…a somewhat serious one. Nothing to cause alarm…just some scrapes and some serious bruises. But according to my teammates I had a pretty awesome fall. I was able to unclip roll and get back up and off the highway before I could realize what happened. So basically…I am pretty hardcore! Also, no damage to my bike
Day 31: Fairbury, NE
Our hosts in Fairbury were in true Nebraska style….simply wonderful. We pulled into the church and there was a cooler of lemonade and trays of cookies and brownies greeting us at the door. They really know how to get into the heart of a 4K rider. We were supposed to have homestays that night, but we had to get up extremely early the next morning and hit the road so we decided that it would be better for us to stay in the church together. We did however go to one of the church members homes for dinner. The house was absolutely gorgeous and was on a little lake. Also, they made an INSANE amount of food! They had these huge BBQ meatballs (which we came to discover are quite commonly made in NE) and they also had TONS of ice cream and toppings. So naturally we all stuffed our faces full.
Day 32: Franklin, NE
So I was in the van this day which was actually pretty fortunate because it turned out to be the most hellish ride of our journey yet…and I am not joking. The temperatures that day reached 118 degrees and the ride was 100miles. We woke up at 4am that morning to be out on the rode just as the sun had rode that way riders could get as far as possible before the heat started getting really crazy. Our ride directors made the decision the night before that riders were to be shuttled at 2pm no matter where they were on the ride. As it turns out, they decided to turn in even earlier than that around 12:30pm because the heat was so absolutely insane that it was not safe to have the riders out on the road anymore. My three good friends Brad, Yoshi, and Jasper pushed themselves to their breaking point and made it 97miles. I yelled at them around mile 95 to get in the vans because they were going to kill themselves, but they would not oblige. Then 2 miles later they ended up getting in the van.
That evening we had another HUGE spread with lovely hosts at our church in Franklin. They have been hosting the 4K since its inception! So it is always nice to go back to longtime repeat hosts like that. They printed out name tags for all of us and put up the newspaper articles about the 4K from years past. They even printed out blogposts from years past and each one of our profiles. Needless to say, we felt like celebrities entering their church.
Day 33: Arapahoe, NE
We have been hearing about Arapahoe, NE since day one. Our one ride director Chey did the ride last year and he could not stop talking about how he was excited to finally get back to Arapahoe because the people there were so nice. Of course we had a rest day there! Arapahoe is a fairly small town with a population around 1,000 people. There is an old fashioned pharmacy that serves ice cream sodas and sundaes. (Obviously we went there both days) There is one main street that has all the main business establishments and there are no traffic lights. And people who grow up there tend to stay there for life. But because of that, there is a true community in Arapahoe.
Our host was a lovely old lady named Lila Adams. Lila is 86 years old and all I have to say is I hope that I look as good as she does when I am that age. Lila is also a cancer survivor having gone through ovarian cancer in the late 80′s. She also lost her husband to cancer six years ago. But despite those things, Lila still lives on her own in the house she lived in with her husband her whole life. She was a wonderful host and made us coffee and breakfast in the mornings and was kind enough to take us on a tour around town and to show us her farm and her family’s construction business. I of course had a complete city girl moment while she was giving the tour….we were driving past a field of cows and I look out my window and see one cow on top of another. I exclaim, “What are those cows doing?!” of course Lila just starts chuckling and I realized that I had just seen cows having sex….definitely a city girl moment
The next day was our day off in Arapahoe. One of the people who was doing our homestay was a man named Nate who owned a lodge called “Hunt Nebraska” and he would take people out hunting. Nate was kind enough to take a group of us trap shooting and teach us how to shoot guns. It was my first time shooting a real gun and I was definitely a little nervous, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. I was not particularly good, but my final score was 5 out of 25 and I am happy with my beginning 20% accuracy rate. Also, I knew it would make my dad the hunter proud
Day 35: Imperial, NE
We were all sad to leave Arapahoe, but of course excited to continue on our journey. Our final stop in Nebraska was Imperial. We lucked out this time because Imperial was a last minute new host and they turned out to be amazing and locked Nebraska in for the win with nicest hosts! It was a long 103 mile day in 103 degree weather getting into Imperial. When we were about 3 miles out from our hosts, they had put up signs with pictures from last years team welcoming us into town. Then upon arrival at the church, a group of ladies was there to greet us and let us ride our bikes into the church and down the hall. They had fresh fruit, cookies, and ice cream out waiting for us in addition to lemonade and water. I ended up not feeling great that evening probably due to dehydration. But other team members of mine played in a water fight with kids from the church and even did sumo wrestling that the church had set up for us. Of course dinner and breakfast were provided and were as usual delicious and amazing!
So we had hosts both old and new in Nebraska and yet ALL of them showed us the utmost hospitality and generosity. It still boggles my mind that groups of people are willing to take in and feed 27 total strangers just because we called and asked. Although the scenery may not be that special, the people in Nebraska are definitely something worth going back for
Weve hit the 50 day mark, no precise count on our miles thus, and this country gets better and better. I was questioned my sanity a number of times for not pursuing an east bound trip opposed to the obvious.. mainly due to the “headwinds” (now that i think about this i might have mentioned this is a past post) turns out that most wind are from the south, and cross winds are a typical encounter if any. Our trip started in the comfort and familiarity of the east coast, leading to the heat and depthening valleys rolling hills of the developing midwest, plains grassland wheat small town friendly of the central north, cowboy rodeo growing mountains and goldrush of the “west”, till now here in montana where at the feet of every mountain is a glorious lake or a flovolving river.
The trip is has gone at variable paces, going , and will continue on. 20 days or so left on our journey across the country. Oh the places we will go, montana is beautiful, our team consists of genuine friends that the 20 day mark has little correlation, andd this eveneing we shared a really beautiful dinner with the sweet lutheran people of hamilton MT…yeah, great time infact. Enjoy sum pitchas]]>
On the way from West Yellowstone to Sheridan we passed through a few interesting towns. One of them, Virginia City, was set up as a historical site with buildings from the nineteenth century. Passing through main street, which also happened to be the main highway, we saw what looked to be the remnants of (or more likely, a recreation of) an Old West town. Even though we weren’t able to stop, it was still neat seeing a piece of the collective imagination of the West.
Chelsea and I rode in the food van, although from the start we had to change our plans from what we normally do with finding lunch. We hadn’t been in touch with the host for a while, so we needed to figure out the people we needed to contact to ensure we had a place to stay tonight. Rather than getting food donations right away, we headed straight to Sheridan to see whom we could meet there. When we arrived at the school that was hosting us, we found a group of people conducting a search-and-rescue training class. They were great in helping us contact people at the school who could unlock the doors and get us set up. After a couple of hours we had found someone who worked at the school and who welcomed us in and showed us around. We’re staying at Sheridan Elementary School, which has a huge gym that the high school down the street also uses, plus showers, a great kitchen, and plenty of space for us.
Once we got the host secured and unloaded the vans, we headed back ten miles out of town to meet up with the riders for lunch. Luckily we still had plenty of food from yesterday’s bonanza in West Yellowstone, so the riders were able to feast on giant burgers, Chinese food, and hot dogs, plus a berry pie that the water van had picked up at a farmer’s market this morning. We were able to relax in a park for a little while before making our way over to Sheridan once again.
When we had first come to coordinate with the host, we had seen people setting up a pavilion in a grassy area nearby. By the time everyone got in, it turned out that Spencer and a few other riders had talked with some people there and had arranged for us to get a free dinner. They were setting up for an annual charity auction that would benefit the local hospital. It was open to the public, and people could bid on local artwork, pies, and other items to support the creation of a new wing to the existing building, which was right down the street. In addition to the fast-paced but friendly auction, they had a wonderful buffet of pulled pork, brownies, and potato salad; since they had plenty, they agreed to share it with all of our riders, thus eliminating the need to get dinner for tonight. The people who served us filled us up so much that I could scarcely move afterward. Everyone was supportive of our cause (some even donated to us on the spot), and we appreciate the food they gave us, as well as the chance to share our mission with everyone in attendance.
Our time in Sheridan has been wonderful, thanks to the accommodating people we’ve met the whole day. As with the rest of the route so far in Montana, we’ve also been greeted by an incredible mountain skyline. We hope to see more of both as we move onto the town of Wisdom tomorrow.]]>
Yesterday was the first day of leg 3 of the ride! That meant that it was my time to step up to the plate as leg leader along with Sarah and Zach. As a leg leader I am responsible for planning routes and handling day to day logistics such as organizing jobs and drivers. Before the ride started I was also responsible for finding hosts. I noticed Yoshi and Dale, the leaders of leg 2, staying up late to work on routes or being stressed out in general so I was a bit nervous coming in. I am most nervous about working on routes because directions are not exactly my forte. Unfortunately routing is not as easy as putting point A and B into google maps. We have to avoid the interstate, look at road conditions (our bikes are not suited for riding on gravel) and deal with construction.
The ride yesterday was from Jackson WY to Idaho Falls ID. It was a 88 mile ride with 3 big climbs. During the first part of day we rode on the Teton Pass Highway. Our first climb was about 4-5 miles long with an elevation gain of over 2000 feet. I believe it was the steepest climb of trip. I rode up with Christine; we huffed and motivated each other to the top. On the way up we met up with another cyclist who said he climbed the mountain 5 times a week! Once we got to the top we cheered for everybody who came up after. It was really awesome to see all my teammates push up to the top!
After our first climb we crossed the state line from Wyoming to Idaho. Our last state before Oregon! We originally were routed to go to Utah all the way down to Salt Lake City. But because we weren’t able find hosts, we had to reroute through Idaho. As a result we have some really short days like today, which was a 28.5 mile ride from Idaho Falls to Blackfoot ID. Since it was so short we decided to do a scavenger hunt, which included challenges like eating ice cream, drinking coffee, and eating a whole big bag of chips. My team, Team Powderpuff, (Nellie, Christine, Seddy, Allie and I) got really competitive with another team of boys. We ended eating a whole raspberry pie and tons of ice cream and coffee. Allie tackled the challenge of eating a whole large bag of lays chips and did it under 10 minutes. It was amazing to watch and I am forever impressed. Nellie also took one for the team and downed several varieties of highly caffeinated coffee beverages. I contributed by eating ice cream and pie. It was pretty tough.
In Blackfoot we were treated with a delicious dinner cooked by members of the church we were staying in. Many of them are cancer survivors. I talked with a woman who is a skin cancer survivor and her husband. They were avid cyclists and we had great conversation sharing biking stories!
I recently uploaded a bunch of pictures online, you can take a look here:
Colorado was beautiful. In Denver, Venk, Sophie, Emma, Jasper and I saw the symphony orchestra play for free as well as the fireworks display. We then got fro-yo which was delicious.
Riding with Team San Fran was a breath of fresh air on the way Boulder. It was so interesting to compare the experience of our team to theirs. I would love to be a fly on the wall for a day with the other teams just to see how they work.
Brad, Venk, and I woke up at 6 am on our day off in Boulder to climb Flagstaff mountain on our bikes. The grade, combined with the altitude made it one of my most challenging experiences yet on a bicycle. I was so happy that I could push myself, and that I had my teammates there to push me as well. The views were inspiring, and the descent was insane. My forearm hurt from pulling the brake so hard.
Having the alumni in Boulder was also one of the highlights. It was great getting to know Dana, Terrence, Emma, and Chris better. They fit right back into the 4K lifestyle like they had never left. Dana stole my bed for the night, but I don’t begrudge her terribly.
I am also proud to report that at the car wash we ran as a fundraiser for Jake, the little boy on hospice due to his brain tumor, we were able to raise almost $800!]]>
Today was a great day, there was amazing scenery along the way, saw a bald eagle on the lake, went fast along the valley, cruising between 25-30 mph, had a nice tough climb, got ice cream, and a great dinner!!
|The sunrise over the Wyoming plains. Another day begins!|
Luckily, today was a much easier day than yesterday, but just as beautiful:
|Views from the route. Wyoming is fantastic. Take a good look at the white, puffy clouds that hang over the mountains in the distance.|
Tired, but determined, we made it to Cody, practically coasting compared to yesterday’s climbing. We new we had to check out the rodeo that night, it was one of our last opportunities to catch a rodeo. The sun was setting as I arrived, and it was a beautiful sunset behind a mountain:
|The sun sets over Cody, Wyoming.|
|My first time at a rodeo!|
Tomorrow we head into Yellowstone. We’re all really excited for it; it’s supposed to be a beautiful ride. I’m excited to have more camping experience and opportunities for hiking. Who knows what new sights are to be found?
Minneapolis was great. Dinner was provided by a family of a rider on Team Portland, and there was a ton of desserts from a local bakery. They were soooooooo good. We all got to stay in homes. Real homes. I lucked out and got to stay in a house with dogs. I was with Jose, Luke, Chelsea, Kevin, and Molly and we had a great time with the dogs. It was really nice to get to play with a dog; it’s been a while. In the morning we awoke to the smell of bacon and blueberry pancakes. We had a day off and we spent a good portion of it cleaning bikes and soliciting donations at a lake. That is always an incredible experience. Some people are incredibly dismissive, which is perfectly fine. Others, however, are incredibly open, and even if they don’t donate, can provide some fulfilling conversations. I’ve met some amazing people this way. In the evening we went to a HOPE Lodge to provide some entertainment. We put on a rather impromptu variety show, which was really well received. Seeing the joy in the cancer patients’ faces made it quite worth our time and effort.
That night we stayed in a church in Minneapolis. I was lucky enough to find a couch in a separate room, which resulted in me waking up late. I absolutely enjoyed the extra sleep.]]>
The black hills in South Dakota were absolutely gorgeous. We were all pretty apprehensive about the climbing we’d have to do, but it ended up not being that bad. There were more pine trees than freckles on my arms (quite a few at this point) and it smelled like one of those dorky Christmas tree shaped air fresheners. It was such a nice break to finally ride next to trees again. Not even 25 miles of a “gravel” (read: large rocks) trail could take away from the scenery.
Coming out of the black hills we finally made it into Wyoming. The first day was breath taking. We were finally biking at the feet of mountains and there was a real sense of grandeur. Honestly a lot of Wyoming has now blurred together in my mind, but there are a few standout moments.
The first was climbing the big horn mountains. Word on the street is that this was our toughest climb of the entire trip. We broke up into groups of twos and tackled it in pairs. It ended up amounting to about 40 miles of climbing (about 6-7% grade), but it wasn’t as bad as we thought. When we reached the peak we were all shocked. We’d been prepping for an absolutely grueling day and while it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t so bad after all. The descent was beautiful. We had about 20 miles of straight downhill winding through the mountains. I think the slopes of Big Horn will be forever etched in my memory.
Our ride into Yellowstone may have been our prettiest day of riding yet. The Shoshone forest is stunning. There are beautiful, sweet smelling pine trees, awe-inspiring mountains, and a stunning teal river for about 60 miles getting into the park. Usually by the end of the day I’m ready to stop biking, but I seriously didn’t want it to end getting into Yellowstone.
Yellowstone itself was pretty, but it’s very hard to see everything the park has to offer in a day. We did our best and I certainly enjoyed it, but I think the ride into the park outshined the park itself. Also, Bison are nuts.
Ahh, one more wonderful Wyoming memory. Outside of Gillette, WY we met a woman who invited us to her ranch in the evening. She served us elk burgers (not too shabby at all) and let all of us ride on one her horses bareback. All I can say is that I’m happy I’m not riding a horse across the country. I don’t think my lower half could take it. The sunset was breathtaking, but the stars were what got me. I’ve never seen a night sky like that in my life. The milky way was the clearest I’ve ever seen it and we were lucky enough to see a few shooting starts. Truly a magical night.
Now we’re in Montana. It’s beautiful, too. I’m starting to notice a trend. I miss the east coast a lot of the time, but the West just has more…presence? But anyways, yes, Montana is as pretty as everyone says. Can’t wait for the adventures to come!]]>
I rode with Casey, which meant, as always, that I had a great time. As we rolled into town he and I stopped at a pub to catch a drink. It was great reminiscing about college with him. We’re so busy on this trip I rarely have time to sit and relax. We stayed at a YMCA that night, and it had a water slide, which was the perfect way to cool off (besides the nice cold beer) from our hot day.
After a very filling dinner at a local church a few of us went out to explore the town. Everyone here was really really nice. As we travel further west, we also seem to be traveling back in time. I’m not sure how to explain that, but both the technology and people just seem to be from about ten years ago. It is rather refreshing.]]>
Day 30: Manhattan, KS – Salina, KS – Today was yet another hot day with temps reaching to 105 deg. Some of the interesting things that happened today were seeing more flat land of Kansas, the controlled fires started and continuing on learning about my teammates in a game we call spotlight. The rubber on my tires was so hot that periodically I would pick up rocks from sticking to the rubber which could lead to a puncture/flat tire. We also had a nice quick stop at DQ for a well deserved blizzard near the end of the ride. At the end of the day we went to the local cancer center for dinner and we all met some current and former patients as well as the hospital staff. It was a delicious dinner of chicken salad while I talked with a husband and wife who have been married for 56 years. After we returned I started to play some basketball which was really fun but I think I was very tired so my shots were a little off today. After 3 hours of play it was time to shower and get to bed.
Day 31: Salina, KS Service day – We woke up early to go to the cancer center/hospital to get breakfast as well as lunch and in the meantime we sat and spoke with several patients who came in to get treatment. It’s a great feeling when you can experience their story and hear about their fight and to let them know who I am and why I ride. After lunch we went to an amazing water park that had some crazy slides, one of which was a long tube that shot you straight down into a toilet bowl where you slowed your speed down by looping around and around until you fell into the “drain” (pool). There was so much to do and see at the water park.
Day 32: Salina, KS – Wichita, KS – Today was the hardest day on the ride yet, and who would of thought that KS would prove harder to me than the Appalachians! Today was a surprise century (101 miles), 112 degree heat (when we ended at 7:30 pm it was 95 degrees) and a strong headwind of 25 mph for 85.5 miles of the trip which caused our avg speed to be approx. 9 mph on flat ground! It sucked. Today was the day that I became a super sayian too. I was out in the sun so long that my arm and leg hairs have been bleached blond. Only 2 girls finished today and it took all the energy out of everyone. Our host for tonight was super friendly but we were all so tired we just got food, showers than all of us went straight to bed since we had a wake up of 5am.
Day 33: Wichita – Pratt, KS – Today I was assigned van duty which I was glad to do since yesterday I had a hard day and I could get some physical rest (although I knew I was going to have mental stress today). Today everybody was happy go-lucky for the first two water stops but then it became really hot around 12:30. We had a wonderful lunch provided by Olive garden set up at the lunch stop and everything was good. After that it was about 8 miles before people started to run out of water which I didn’t know when I set up shop at the 15 mile mark. People were dying by the time that they got to me but I’m glad we could provide more water and support for them.
Day 34: Pratt, KS – Dodge City, KS – Today was a good day yet I was very tired on the ride because I didn’t get a good sleep the night before and started off the day hot. Thankfully there was cloud cover till 1 pm and I was finished by 2:30 pm so there wasn’t much time in the heat thankfully! At the end of the ride we all went to get Sonic ice cream cones. Dodge city is coined the “windiest city in the US” and the 2nd windiest city in the world. They were right. For a portion of our ride it felt as though I was riding on a curve when I was on straight flat ground due to the strong cross wind.
Day 35: Dodge City, KS – Saracruse, KS – Today was AMAZING. I literally “Got the Hell outta Dodge” because we had an amazing tail wind which helped us get an amazing pace line. Today was a day that I felt as though I was being pushed to do my best. I was also very surprised at how much energy I had at the end of the day going 23 mph after biking 95 miles. We were finished with the day at 107 miles. Just as we finished a local guy invited us to a pond where they had a a trampoline and diving board go into the pond. It was a fun way to finish the day.
Day 36: Saracruse, KS – La Junta, CO – Today was yet again another wonderful day. We arrived into Colorado today and we had a fun day biking 100 miles. A Mexican food place was kind enough to donate to my group free enchiladas on our way in Las Animos town. We also passed by a Japanese internment camp which I only knew from the sign. It was a low point in our nations history but it was a reminder to me that although the USA is a great place to live, we all have made huge mistakes and we should learn from them, reconcile and move on. I also saw some wild watermelon growing thanks to Drummond who spotted the plants and was able to ID them as watermelon. Although other groups today had some difficulty, our group had a wonderful day and enjoyed the ride until we had to be picked up literally at the 100 mile mark secondary to thunder/lighting.
Day 37: La Junta, CO – Limon, CO – Originally we were supposed to go to Colorado Springs but due to the forrest fires we had to reroute at the last min. so we went due north to Denver for a 98 mile day. Since we have had so many days in a row going 100 miles I decided that I was going to take it easy today and not push myself as hard as I have been. The group that I got in wince today was a “pick your own group day” was phenomenal. We were all a little bit tired from pushing ourselves so we all wanted to take it slow. The landscape today was all desert, there was a 50 mile stretch of nothingness with very few cars on the road and a good tailwind. Today was a perfect day for getting to know everybody in the group since it was a flat nontrafficed area. We had, quite possible, one of the best days together. We asked so many “fluff” questions i.e. top 5 fav movies, books, places to travel, live, family life, and questions for the future, etc. We literally spent 90 of those 98 miles asking each other questions. We were by far the last group to roll in but quite possibly the happiest group that day. I’ll always remember group Los Caballos! I also dedicated my day to my great cousin (2nd cousin once removed) Terry who is a cancer surviver. This trip has caused me to think a lot about my loved ones and how cancer has affected them. I really wanted to dedicate at least one day to her and I am glad that one of my most fun days has been dedicated to her. (although I didn’t get a good pic since the sunscreen rubbed her name off of my calfs by the time I got my camera.)
Day 38: Limon, CO – Denver, CO – Today I went with group Twinkies to try to find a Korean restaurant for lunch. I had an amazing time talking with Hyo about our lives and a fun time Spotlighting Tony about his life even though he begrudgingly answered some of the questions. Today we also met a couple who are in the air force traveling to another station. We had a good 15 min condo with them about who we were and got to know a little bit more about them. Both of their mothers had died of cancer so we all decided as a group to dedicate the next day to their mothers. Today was also our ride director’s birthday which we all went out to Cheesecake factory to celebrate
Day 39: Denver – Bolder, CO – Today as promised I dedicated my day to Virginia Taylor and Takiko Biskup. We also had a special treat to meet up with the Portland crew and ride with them today. WE rode together in groups of 6 to meet the Portland team and then broke off into groups of 3 in order to hook up with 3 people from Portland. I very much enjoyed my day today and got to know some of the Portland team better. One girl from the team, Sydney, I remembered her face from somewhere but I couldn’t put my finger on how I knew her. Once we got to the lunch stop I remembered that she was one of the people that was at my table during the parents dinner. I also rode with a kid named Eric who is going into the peace corps after this trip which is pretty sweet! The third guy I rode with was Sohum who was a great guy. I was surprised when he said that he grow up in Germantown, MD (my hometown). It was kinda cool to see another person from MoCo and to talk with him. I was also glad to get another perspective of how they operated, water stop length, length of time, host site variations, struggles with weather they experienced, etc. Even though today was a short 55 miler, it was fun to get to know a little bit about the other team. Once we arrived at the host I went to eat Pho with Dong and Moon. It was my first bowl of Pho and I really liked it. Later tonight about 10 of us went to see the new Spiderman movie which I very much liked but there were mixed opinions within our crew.
Day 40: Bolder, CO Rest day – I have had an amazing day. First off, waking up at 9pm was a luxury which rarely happens. We then went out to search for donations since it will be the last major city that we travel to for a while. After scouring around the city with much success, I stumbled upon Pratt Street Market. There were several street performers there which I was enamored with so I stayed to enjoy the atmosphere. It was a really fun market to look around and see what was going on. We then went to Red Robin for a dinner, picked up some of the donations that we were offered earlier that day. Later that evening I went back to the marketplace to look around and see some more shows. I met up with some other 4K people and enjoyed the town. I’ll say, bolder enchanted me! I very much enjoyed that it was a huge bike friendly city with several bike lined up around market places yet very car accessible too. The views were amazing from the town with a lot of outdoor activities to do. The people of the city in general were really nice and welcoming (especially our host).
Day 41: Bolder, CO – Estes Park, CO – Today was a van duty day for me with Stephanie. We got donations from Bolder, CO and went to pick everybody up because of thunder storms. After we dropped people off we went out to the town of Estes and were able to get some more donations for dinner that night. Estes Park is a place where my mom has been talking about ever since I showed her the route that the San Fran team takes. She was so excited to see that it was on the list of places we went. She went there in the 1960′s and loved it. I now understand why. It is a picturesque place with beautiful mountains of the Rockies and lakes as well.
Day 42: Estes Park, CO – Kremling, CO – Today we climbed the Rockies for the first time and passed by the continental divide on the highest paved road in America, Trail Ridge road. It was a challenge mainly due to the fact that it was SOOO cold at the time (40 deg weather after being in weather of over 100 deg for the past several days). It was supposed to be a 90 mile day and one of our most difficult climbs yet a beautiful view. I really wanted to/did dedicate this day to my grandfather Frank Schneider who died in 1997 of pancreatic cancer. It was a very satisfying day in the fact that I was able to climb the mountain (we went up in pairs, I had an amazing climbing partner Ethan with a great conversation on life/adulthood). The downhill was a little scary here with a lot of hairpin turns but it was fun none-the-less. I was glad to be able to do this day even though we got shuttled at 72 miles due to thunderstorms.
Day 43: Kremling, CO – Keystone, Co – Today we went to Michael’s, one of our riders, parents house to stay. It was a short and sweet ride with a beautiful bike path to view a beautiful lake with the Rockies in the background. Michaels parents were also so warm and welcoming to us. They provided great company, conversations, a wonderful dinner and breakfast. I’m very glad we got to stay there.
Day 44: Keystone, CO – Salida, CO – Today we went on another Rocky mountain pass called Hoosier pass. Today my climbing partner was MJ. This pass was the easiest of all the passes but was still very fun to do especially the downhill. There was also a sign which was cool to take pictures at.
Day 45: Salida, CO – Gunnison, CO – Today I dedicated my day to Terry “T bird” McEnery, a close relative of mine who is a cancer survivor. Today we went up Monarch Pass which was really fun. My climbing partner was Vince today. We had a blast going up and by far my favorite downhill this whole trip. About 9 miles of a 6% grade without hairpin turns. I was loving it. I love when I go the speed of cars. We also recrossed the continental divide for the last time on this trip. It was a really fun day and I got to know a whole lot more about Vince which was fun. I always enjoy learning more about who people are and where they come from.
Day 46: Gunnison, CO – Paonia, CO – Today I dedicated my day to my relative Jeanie McEnery who is a cancer survivor. Today was one of the most beautiful days on this trip yet. The temp was mid 80′s with dry heat, we went into a not so large climb but a climb none the less into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Last night I was talking to my parents/brother when my mom asked if I had gone into the Black Canyon yet. She said it with such excitement I didn’t know why but when I was riding today I saw her excitement. It was one of the most scenic places yet, and I got 3 echoes when shouting in the canyon. We also yelled over to another group of 4K people who were ahead of us stopped maybe a mile away. It was so interesting that we could hear each other perfectly when shouting across the canyon. I loved it!
Day 47: Paonia, CO – Grand Junction, CO – Today I dedicated my day to my relative Michael McEnery who is a pancreatic cancer survivor. It was a good day today with no mountains to climb. We had a great time and had fro yo right next to our host and were able to go to REI. Today was the second time that my tube was popped yet the first time that there was a puncture through my tire. It was recommend to me by Peter (the bicycle geru) that I should get a new tire. Thankfully there was an REI there and I got a Gatorskin tire which was amazing.
Day 48: Grand Junction, CO – Moab, UT – The views were amazing today yet today was one of the weirdest days of the trip. The sunrise made the mountain rocks SO beautiful with a wonderful way to start the morning. We got to Utah well with a lot of desert starting up. Literally once we hit Utah we had to shuttle people several miles due to poor road conditions. Utah doesn’t take as good of care of their side roads/dirt roads as most other states I have come to find out. Once we got shuttled we were dropped off so they could shuttle more. Then we road into a storm. We waited it out and kept on going. Then there were 30 checkpoints for a new movie being produced with Johnny Depp which we had to get out of the road several times for them to use the road. After that we ate a quick lunch and then went back on our way. Shortly afterwards there was another quick storm with lots of lightning so we were shuttled the last 7 miles to the host. Hyo’s parents (one of our riders) drove to Moab from California area and provided dinner for the 29 riders at a Chinese restaurant which was extremely generous. It was a wonderful dinner.
Day 49: Rest day in Moab, UT – Today I woke up and went out for a run with Ethan for about 5 miles. Then I uploaded photos onto Facebook with captions, went to breakfast. Went to Arches National Park with 23 members of the team, we had 2 hikes and a van tour. We dropped off people for the first 4.3 mile hike, then we dropped off people for the 3 mile hike and then my crew drove to the delicate arch lookout point which was a 0.5 mile climb to the look out. Then we ALL were caught in a sandstorm followed by hailing rain with thunder and lightning. Once we got back into the car we had to pick up 17 other group members who have split into multiple directions. It took some time but we did find everybody (one group we found in the back of a pick up truck to drive down to the visitor center where they would have reception and a warm area to call us.) We then were able to do laundry and get some dinner. It was a good day of rest.
Day 50: Moab, UT – Greenville, UT – Today was van duty for me. Again with poor dirt roads with need to shuttle and find food in Moab, Greenville as well as further along in Price, UT. It was a long day for host van but a good one with a good team with MJ, Alex, Alice and later with Stephanie.]]>
So upon waking up this morning, full of anxious tension for the notorious climbs of the day, I took a sharpie to my upper thighs and inscribed my father’s words on my legs. Now every time I looked down there were his words rising up back at me:
|My reminder to keep climbing Big Horn!|
The morning dedication was sincere and heavy. We were all reminded of why we ride; every teammate spoke. It was the perfect dedication for the ominous day ahead. We left early and on time, unsure of what we were getting ourselves into.
|We approach the climb within 5 miles of leaving the host.|
The views from along the route were consistently beautiful, leading me to expect the beauty to grow as the climb began.
|Views from the road just before the climbing begins.|
I began the climb with my climbing buddy, Jose, who turned out to be the perfect match for me. We cheered each other on as we climbed higher and higher, staying side by side the entire time. In a little over four hours we reached the top–the third team to reach the peak–water stops included.
|We did it–WE REACHED THE PEAK–9,666 ft above sea level!|
|The view from the top of Powder River Pass.|
|We climbed over 5,000 ft in about four hours to a total height of 9,666 ft.|
|The actual summit, a little higher than the road, which we could not reach.|
As newton claimed, what goes up must come down, and that holds true for cycling. The team and I geared up for an 18 mile descent (a well earned descent).
|The view of the Big Horns before the descent.|
We began the descent, which was slightly disappointing, but stopped 7 miles in for a lakeside lunch. The lake was gorgeous:
|Lunch by a lake is always welcomed!|
After lunch we continued the descent for a few more miles, only to be stopped by road construction. The workers at the construction site decided that it was not safe to pass on bicycle, so we got a free shuttle ride through a few miles of roadwork:
|Riders climb into a pickup, bikes in hand, ready to be shuttled through construction.|
I was pleasantly surprised after exiting the pickup truck–that’s when the real descent began. It was unsafe to take pictures during the steep, switchback filled descent. I did snag a pic just before descending:
But our day wasn’t done, after descending we still had miles to go. It was a 90 mile day. Jose and I continued to speed ahead, riding through the tiny town of Tensleep at the base of the Big Horns.
|Riding through Tensleep.|
After getting free shaved ices in Tensleep, we trudged onward, passing through the “badlands of Wyoming.”
|The Badlands of Wyoming, on the way to Worland, WY.|
The long day got longer and hotter. We soon found ourselves wearily tackling rolling hills in the desert.
|Rolling hills through the desert of Wyoming.|
Despite it all, we survived. And, truth be told, it wasn’t as bad as we had expected. The Big Horn Mountains that we had built up in our heads were far worse than the reality. We were stronger than we thought, faster than we thought, and more prepared than we had realized. We were a team, and a strong one at that.
I’m ready for the mountains of the west. If I can climb Big Horn, I can climb anything.
Keep It Low, Keep It Slow,
Today’s dedication was a very special one. First and foremost, today was dedicated to my father for all his support, strength, and inspiration. But today was not just for him, today was for everyone (in no particular order) : my mother; my brother; my grandparents; my step-mom and her father; Jacqlene Moran for all her love and support; the Moran family and specifically Maureen Moran (a loving wife, mother and grandmother whose love I feel through her family); Beth Sherring; the Mejia family; my friends (those both new and old); all of my generous donors; Team Seattle; those we have met along the way, those we will meet, and those we never will meet who have been affected by cancer. Today was for you, for all you, for everything you’ve been through, for everything you will conquer, and for all positive impacts you will have. Thank you, bless you, and may you always have a tail wind!
Lake Lillian must be the friendliest town in the world. It is 0.5 square miles and has about 230 people. There were many signs welcoming us to the town. We stayed in an abandoned building owned by Jean and Lowell. It has originally been a schoolhouse, then it was turned into a winery. The grape vine mural covering all of the walls was beautiful, and all done by hand by one person. A large portion of the town showed up to a pot luck dinner for us, and a group of men played music on the stage for us. I got to meet an elderly man who had been mayor many years ago (he wasn’t really sure when). He told some incredible stories about the changes the town has been through. After the grocery store burned down and the car dealership moved away, the town really started decreasing in size.
One thing I’ve noticed as we’ve gotten further west is the size of towns. There are many small towns. We had a water stop in a town in Minnesota with a population of twelve, the other day we rode through a town with a population of ten. These towns tend to be surrounded by miles and miles of farmland.]]>
|We dedicate today to Hilary. Stay strong and hopeful!|
We left Rapid City hopeful, determined to overcome whatever came our way today. Fortunately, the Black Hills were not as bad as we thought they would be–and they were definitely beautiful!
|The ascent into the Black Hills was scenic from the moment it started.|
The climb was not a straight ascent, but mixed between ascents and descents as we climbed over individual peaks. One of my favorite parts of today’s ride–and the Team Seattle 2012 route as a whole–was the back country roads through the Black Hills National Forest.
|Gravel paths dotted with cattle and dogwood trees were the most enjoyable to ride along. Whenever I imagined leaving home as a kid and traveling far way, I imagined walking along a path just like this one. This route will always hold a special sense of beauty and nostalgia.|
Before long, the ascents had ceased and we descended out the Black Hills, out of South Dakota, and into Wyoming!
|Cloudy mountain peaks greeted us as we descended into Wyoming. The view was stunning.|
|I’ve learned one thing about Wyoming already: it’s mountainous and will not be an easy state to cross!|
Weary from the Black Hills, we’re all settling into bed early here in Sundance, WY. Only time will tell what this state will bring us.
Today we left with the sun rising in Sundance for Gillette, WY.
|The sun rises over Sundance, WY.|
The route itself was nothing special–just beautiful Wyoming as seen from I-90:
|We spent most of the day riding on the interstate to avoid dirt roads (it’s legal in WY!)|
|It was a pleasure to ride along this all day.|
|A view of the landscape from the ranch.|
|Sunset over the ranch.|
The cherries Linda served us were fresh and delicious, but the elk burgers were even better. It was my first time trying elk (which Linda’s husband had killed the year prior). It had a distinct taste that made the burger more enjoyable; of course, that could also have been caused by the method of grilling (which I’m not exactly knowledgeable of). Elk meat has a different texture, a little more dry and less compact than that of steak or regular chopped meat burgers. I enjoyed it so much though I went back for seconds.
The real treat was watching the stars slowly appear in the sky, one by one. My teammates shared their knowledge of constellations; I don’t think I would be able to recognize anything but the big dipper without their guidance. For the first time I got to watch a satellite orbit the earth and observe the white stream of the Milky Way. You just don’t see that much of the universe in the NYC or DC skylines.
It was a great day, except for the fact that I couldn’t call home because of the lack of cell reception. This is becoming more and more of an issue as we move further west.
Now it is later than I want to be, but I must try and salvage as much time for sleep as possible.
Dreaming of the Stars Above,
Today was dedicated to my mother, for all her love and support.]]>
For instance, the weather heading into Buffalo, WY was much more preferable than the mess we had entering Buffalo, NY:
|Wide open skies and roads all the way to Buffalo, WY.|
The day was relatively easy, though the Big Horn Mountains–tomorrow’s great challenge–loomed ominously in the distance.
|We couldn’t help but gaze at the Big Horns during a water stop.|
We ended up descending into Buffalo surrounded by mountains:
|Buffalo, WY is BEAUTIFUL!|
While making some last-minute host changes (no worries, we had everything under control) we cooled off in Clear Creek. You can see why it’s called Clear Creek for yourself:
|The water was so refreshing and made laying in the sun all the more enjoyable.|
Tonight we are checking over our bikes and performing some basic maintenance to prepare for the Big Horns tomorrow. Tomorrow we are climbing over 5,000 ft to a total elevation of 9,666 ft. In total, it’s a 90 mile day, the first third of which are climbing through mountains. We’re all really anxious.
On the summit, I spent the better part of 20 minutes with Michael, Kelly, and Patrick searching for the 4K Rock in a very dense cloud bank. The Rock has been a feature in in 4K pictures for many years because of the breathtaking vista behind it. Unfortunately our pictures were a bit obscured by the storm rolling through the mountains. Such is life.
Our descent down Trail Ridge Road was much more exciting because the clouds broke just as we headed down from the second summit on the road. We spent the rest of the day attempting to sprint to the host ahead of a big storm rolling in, and got caught about 20 miles from Kremmling in a shed on a ranch.
The next few days were spent picking back and forth across the continental divide through Hoosier and Monarch Pass as well. We had an amazing day at Michael’s house in Keystone where his family spent the day with us. They were the first host on the entire trip to make more food for dinner than we physically had the ability to eat. I was quite disappointed that we weren’t able to rise to their challenge, but 29 people can only eat so much rice and enchiladas in one sitting.
The weather was much more cooperative for our rides over Hoosier Pass and Monarch Pass, and we got some amazing views from both climbs. Even more exciting than our two extra climbs over the divide was our day spent in Paonia, CO. I’d heard great stories about Paonia from past riders, and now I understand why they loved the town so much. We were greeted by a huge crowd at our host, who has been involved with the ride for several years now. They served us an amazing pot luck dinner, and then took us downtown for free ice cream! Paonia is a tiny little town in a quiet Colorado valley, but they were more passionate about our ride and helping our mission than any host we’ve had on the trip. After ice cream, we went to a local watering hole named Louie’s – owned and operated by a former coast-to-coast bike rider who got to Colorado, stopped the ride, and hasn’t lived anywhere else since. After a long conversation about the 4K, I found out he was born and raised in Kings Park! For everyone reading, that’s 2 towns over from my hometown of St. James, NY. It’s crazy how many random connections you can find as you wander across the country.
Our ride to Grand Junction, CO was uneventful, but things became a bit more interesting once we crossed the border into Utah. Exactly at the state line, the road went from smooth pavement to destroyed oil and stone road. It was so bad that we ended shuttling over 20 miles to the heard of the Canyonlands leading into Moab. It should have been smooth sailing from here….but no. We found ourselves smack in the middle of a movie shoot for Disney’s new version of the Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, and Helena Bonham Carter. The crew was shooting a train chase scene on the road, and would reset their shoot every 20 minutes or so. We spent the next 2 hours hopping from pit stop to pit stop between takes, and finally passed the crew and main rig about 10 miles down the road. We have a confirmed sighting of Armie Hammer riding an animatronic horse, and some suspected sightings of Johnny himself (the crew claims he left the state already, but nobody actually believed them).
Our rest day in Moab was amazing – It started the night before for Michael, Cheema, Patrick, Cassie, Kelly, and myself as we went out and camped on the banks of the Colorado river. The sky was completely clear and the stars were amazing! We woke up early the next morning and did a sprint tour of Arches National Park. After a morning of breath-taking views and countless pictures, we headed back to our host for showers, laundry, and an afternoon of relaxation.
Riding out of Moab was just as gorgeous as the ride in, but we unfortunately had to shuttle to the host again due to bad road conditions. Hopefully Utah will be a bit friendlier to us tomorrow. We’re heading from the tiny town of Green River, UT to Capitol Reef, UT. Cross your fingers for well paved roads and sunny skies!]]>
After talking to a few of the older members of the trip I am now forced to face what I have been scared to for a long time. Recently people have described me as a very serious person and at first it shocks me. I always thought of myself as very carefree and not very serious but apparently things have changed. But I now have realized that this is something to embrace instead of run from. I know that I am rambling on about myself but now I will talk about other things so I don’t bore anyone reading this.
Two days ago we went arrived in Moab, our first day in Utah and last day of leg two. The ride in was a little shaky as my group got four flats and a series of unfortunate events led to a very short day but with a beautiful view. After hanging around downtown it reminded me of the times I visited Utah with my family. The next day (our rest day) we visited Arches National Park and unfortunately rain cut our visit short but the atypical environment made for some beautiful pictures. The scenery in Moab made the experience that much better and I can’t wait to return.]]>
From there we decided to tie up the bikes and take another hike along one of the area’s trails. This time we opted for a short two-mile route up to a “natural bridge” carved out of the rockface by years of water erosion. We didn’t get as high up as yesterday’s hike, but we did get to see the interesting, though narrow, rock feature connecting two sides of the mountain. It was fairly steep getting up there, and once we were there we had an unobstructed view of the waterfall and drop off below. It was hard to believe that a road had originally been planned to go across it, especially with the narrowness and precariousness of the bridge; today hikers aren’t even allowed to go across it for fear that it might be weakened. Still, we were able to appreciate its beauty from just off to the side.
Coming back from the trail, Casey, Cali, Johnny, Alex, and I split off and came across a fallen tree in the trail. It was about half a meter in diameter, and to have a little fun with the extra time we had, we decided to help the Park Service out and remove it from the trail. We all took turns chopping it down with a hatchet we found abandoned in the woods (even me with my one functional arm). It took a little while to cut through by hand, but we were all pleased when we finally broke through and could say we sliced through a big tree trunk in true ax-men style.
Once we were back at the marina, we hung around and played games until the van came back from dropping off more riders. It has been impossible to get food donations within the park, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t met a lot of accommodating people who work here. One woman in particular, a manager at the marina general store, helped seek us out to convey a message from the rest of our team. (In the absence of cell phone service, the only thing they could do was contact someone in the park.) She and other park workers were incredibly helpful and supportive of our cause and did what they could to help us out.
By early afternoon, Megan and Emily had returned from the host to pick us up. They kindly agreed to help shuttle riders back and forth, not a simple feat given the vast distances and slow-moving roads involved; they gave up their day to drive the rest of us out of the park. Just as we we were about to load the bikes onto the van, I decided that I felt well enough to try to get back on the bike. I rode Kevin’s bike around the parking lot a little bit. Even though we weren’t going very fast at all, it was exhilarating to be back on the bike after my injury. Luckily I didn’t feel any pain, and I got to say I rode in Wyoming, if only for a short stretch. I hope this is a harbinger of good things to come.
On our drive out the park, we saw more buffalo, elk, and even a few bears off in the distance. One last sight I had been hoping to see was a feature known as the “grand canyon of Yellowstone.” I had heard about it, but I had never seen any pictures of it, so I didn’t know what to expect. When we got there, I couldn’t believe what we were standing in front of: We were at the top of a massive display of bright-yellow rock (supposedly the park’s namesake), with an amazing waterfall in the distance. The scale of the canyon is difficult to describe; calling it Yellowstone’s version of the Grand Canyon is not exaggeration at all. Seeing it was a perfect way to end our extended tour of the park.
Moving out of the national park, we reached Montana, the next state along the route. (We won’t have too many more of these.) Just as with the parts of Wyoming we passed through, Montana is known for its commanding mountains and big sky, both of which we saw as soon as we entered the state. The town of West Yellowstone, just outside the park, was a nice area to stay (and to get food donations, too). Moving just outside the town itself, though, we made our way to the home of Scott and Alice, who graciously allowed us to stay with them at the last minute. They have a beautiful home just off the lake and surrounded by the mountains. It has been wonderful staying here, especially compared to the chilly accommodations we had camping in Yellowstone the past two nights. They even prepared us a delicious dinner of hamburgers, hot dogs, side dishes, and soft brownies. After not having a lot of food for several days, it was wonderful to have such a filling meal.
Tomorrow we continue to move through Montana. So far everyone has been great here, and I look forward to what we’ll find in the land of Big Sky. If our stay at Scott and Alice’s home in West Yellowstone has been any indication, we’re in for a great time.]]>
The sheer amount of sights to see in Yellowstone is overwhelming. The park itself covers an enormous area (really the entire northwest corner of Wyoming), and it takes half a day even to drive from one area to another, especially when wildlife block the roadway. Since everything’s so spread out, our group decided to split up in order to see what everyone wanted to visit. I had wanted to go for a hike along one of the park’s nearly one thousand miles of trails (maybe because walking is the closest physical activity I can come to actually riding right now!). Other people had wanted to drive over to Old Faithful and see some of the geothermal features surrounding it. While about half of us went to the geysers, the other half stayed back at the lake area and started off on a several-mile hike.
The trail we chose to follow was called Elephant Back, named after the shape the mountain supposedly resembled when explorers first came to the area, though today it’s difficult to make out this shape from the trail itself. We walked about two miles from our campsite to the trail head and were able to see the shimmering lake by our side. Once we got on to the trail, we moved further into the evergreen forest and were able to see the fresh sights and smells of Yellowstone up close. There were plenty of signs warning us about bears in the area, so we made sure to watch out for anything dangerous, but ultimately we didn’t see any bears along our route. Climbing up Elephant Back Mountain was an amazing experience: I had never been on a true mountain trail before, and it was a new experience to go over the switchbacks that brought us nearly a thousand feet up in only about two miles. Walking on the side of the mountain and seeing how steep it was was an adventure in itself. Once we got to the summit, though, we were treated to a fantastic vista of the part of the park surrounding the lake. We stayed there for a while to take in the view and look down all the way to where we started at the valley floor.
When we got back from the hike, which turned out to be around eight miles in all, we met up with the group that visited Old Faithful. Our original plans to rent rowboats to take to an island on the lake fell through, so some people ended up just going swimming in the incredibly clear water. I stayed back to get some rest, and when I woke up everyone was enjoying a relaxing evening by the fireside. Although we didn’t have much food for dinner, since it’s so hard to get donations from the Park Service, we made the best of what we had in our stocks, including tortillas, beans, and rice. A few people also supplemented their dinners with some choice snacks from the general store. All considered, we made the most of our night under the stars.
So far it’s been a nice evening, without any kind of rain to disturb our sleep. We ultimately decided not to ride out of the park tomorrow, since there isn’t much shoulder on the main highway, and we’ve entered the especially dangerous buffalo mating season. Instead, we’ll shuttle our bikes and ourselves out of the park to our host in West Yellowstone. Although the riders are certainly disappointed at not being able to ride through such a majestic route, we won’t have to wake up quite as early, and we’ll have more time to spend in Yellowstone. It should be exciting to get to see even more of what this enormous park has to offer.]]>
**Today’s day is dedicated to Carol Baccaro, mother of one of my buddies back at home. Carol is battling breast cancer and I KNOW she will overcome this terrible disease. I rode so hard today, pushing through every obstacle for you, Carol. So did the other 28 riders.**
The trip from Limon to Denver gave me an opportunity to do a lot of thinking. I traveled with an extremely quiet group today, so not much conversation had occurred at all. During this time, I invited myself to reflect on the journey thus far. We passed the halfway point on day 35, I began to analyze the changes I have gone through, and ultimately, meditated on the lessons I learned from the many cancer patients, survivors, and their families along the way.
Needless to say, going to Denver has been a big dream of mine, but with the mileage we were faced with, I had to distract myself so that I didn’t focus on how slowly time was dragging on the road. While beginning to ascend upwards on some much-missed hills, I received a text from my fraternity brother that I went to college with several years ago. Jared, who recently moved to Denver, had found out that I’d be in the area and informed me that he was living there.
Talk about an awesome surprise!
We were able to hang out in Denver for the night as he showed the city to some teammates and myself. The city is not only beautiful, but it is young, full of vim, and immediately attracted me to move there. I can’t deny the fact that I may be considering leaving good old Upstate New York (sorry Mom and Dad!) Kidding of course, I can definitely see Denver as a future vacation site.
I promised to Jared that I would dedicate the next day to his Aunt, a breast cancer survivor. It feels so great to be able to support him and his family in some way, even if it’s a small one.
Days 39-40:To Boulder with Team Portland! + Rest Day
As I wrote Jared’s aunt’s name on my calves, I began to understand on a deeper level just how seriously I should take these dedications. There is a strong meaning behind the dedication, and the way a day unravels could depend solely on how you live that dedication out.
I hope I did her justice, Jared!
On today’s ride, 4K’s team Portland was staying in Boulder the next day as well, so we decided to mix and match riders with one another. I had the pleasure of meeting new ‘teammates’ in a sense, and hearing their motivations for riding. It was refreshing to ride with some new faces!
I couldn’t wait to ride into Boulder. I have only heard amazing things about the city–when I arrived, I learned that people’s opinions were spot on. This place had everything I thought it would: mountains for hiking, nightlife for enjoying, a strong biking community–everything!
I arrived at the host, only to find a care package from my parents! I couldn’t have been happier!! My parents are my strongest support system and I’m not sure what I’d do without them. I quickly began to gobble up the snacks and clif bars they included…much needed!
Anticipating a night on the town to precede the rest day, I decided to take a quick nap before checking out the city. That nap turned into a twelve hour one as I woke up at 6 am (after falling asleep at 6pm). What a bummer that was to have to miss the excitement of this area.
The next day, I woke up rejuvenated and refreshed, ready to tackle the day. As a couple of friends and I were exploring coffee shops to get our caffiene fix, we came across two men who stopped us and questioned what our shirts wer for (referring to our 4K logo.) We described the 4K to Cancer for them and they were extremely impressed with our mission.
These men were the executive directors of the Race Across America: The toughest cross country bicycle race in the nation.
Talk about pressure, these men host what every competitive biker dreams of doing! They were so great to talk to as we took pointers for how we would approach the Rocky Mountains, both mentally and physically. They were an absolute fountain of information.
I know that the coming days will be difficult as we ascend thousands of feet in the next couple of days. I am confident though that with the inspiration I have been given from so many people, that I will make it through even the toughest obstacles with my team.
Stay inspired, friends.
|The sunrise over the badlands was incredible–a wonderful way to wake up.|
It was not long before we realized that we would essentially have to climb out of the Badlands in order to continue our journey. The climb was steep, but the 30 mph headwinds were torture!
|The climbing begins as the sun rises higher; we’re greeted by strong headwinds.|
I soon discovered that the trip out of the Badlands (about 22 miles worth) was just as senic as the route into the Badlands. It was worth it to stop for one last picture:
|A last look at the Badlands before departing for Rapid City.|
We trudged forward through the coursing headwinds, stopping at the famous Wall Drug in Wall, SD. The establishment was touristy, but offered 5 cent coffee, which we each had 5 cups of. It was a nice unofficial break to give our legs a rest and our system a jolt of caffeinated energy. It came in handy.
|Approaching Rapid City, with the Black Hills lurking in the distance.|
After concuring one last (and long) climb, we reached our host–Calvary Lutheran Church. The place is enormous and perfect for our two-day stay.
|We all began to fall asleep after dancing to a local reggae band’s performance at the Firehouse Brewing Company in Rapid City, SD.|
We were exhausted from the day’s challenging headwinds, and soon found ourselves falling asleep at the table! With that it was time to go back to the host and off to bed. This was the first Fourth of July in a while that I didn’t see fireworks (the typical firework shows for the Rapid City area were canceled due to forest fires). It was a good day nonetheless.
Here are my pictures from the team trip:
|Flags from every state line the path to the main attraction.|
|In the nearby museum I discovered the original plan for Mount Rushmore. The lower portions of the sculpture were never carved due to the composition of the mountain side.|
|A closer view, from under the President’s noses.|
Boulder Rest Day
St. John’s Church
Rest Day. To begin our rest day in Boulder, Yoshi, V and I rode up Flagstaff Mountain. The climb was very challenging, with grades of 3% to 17% steep! We each went at our own pace. I wanted to start the mountain by pushing it hard, which I did, but soon realized it was going to be much harder than I anticipated…no wonder this is where a lot of professional cyclists train! We made it to one of the points of interest, which I thought was the summit, but it wasn’t. We hung out there for a bit, got a couple of pictures and continued to climb. The road is all switch backs. The switch back is generally the steepest part of the climb; this is where I saw my Garmin read 17%. We made it to what we considered to be the summit, plus we were running out of time, we had to be back at the host by 10. We took a few more pictures and began to fly down the mountain, it was insane! You couldn’t gather too much speed because of the switchbacks, but it was still fun. This was best day of the trip so far! Later in the afternoon we put on a car wash for four hours and raised over $780, for Chey’s Pedal Pal, Jake. This money was used to help him get cancer treatment. We washed a ton of super dirt Colorado cars and trucks, two dogs and the cab of a semi!!
We had lunch, went to REI and continued to explore Boulder, I really like this town!
That’s all for now, check out the pictures!
Thanks for reading.
Those who rode got picked up around mile 70 due to thunderstorms…well more like lightening storms. I ended up sleeping in the van because I felt so terrible from not sleeping.
I also got to see a friend from home! Liz now lives in Laramie, Wyoming. We had pizza and beer, and also checked out the local bar, although I didn’t last long because I was so tired! I slept on her couch…which was much nicer than the floor in the church, haha.