After stalking one of my friends from high school on Facebook, I came across a bike trip she did from Baltimore, MD to San Francisco, CA. It looked amazing. I was unsure if it was one of those things where people make their lives look amazing on social media. So, I reached out to her to find out more about it, and she pushed me to do it. And I did.
I applied online and was accepted for the Ulman Cancer Fund’s 4K for Cancer where I would bike over 4,000 miles in 70 days to raise money and awareness for young adults affected by cancer. I signed up for the route from Baltimore to Seattle, and quickly set out to begin fundraising $4,500. Thanks to my wonderful friends and family, I was able to achieve this much faster than I ever thought. Through this organization, you receive a bike for the trip once you reach 50% of the fundraising goal which is amazing!
The week leading up to my trip I begin to panic and kind of wish I had not signed up for it. It was going to be the longest I had ever been away from family and Diz, and I was so scared. My mom encouraged me that orientation would be better and I would feel more comfortable after meeting my team. After the first two days of orientation, I still felt no change. I am extremely awkward and uncomfortable when I first meet people, but I tried so hard to be my normal self. My teammates were quiet and many of them had signed up with a friend. I felt alone.
Saying goodbye to my family and friends who came out to see me off was incredibly difficult. Tears streamed down my face, and I had no idea how I was going to make it through this whole summer. Dizzy was the hardest of all because I knew she didn’t understand. I am lucky to have my parents and family to take such good care of her when I cant. I knew she would have a great summer.
Our send off ended with a dedication ceremony. Everyday along the trip, the team members dedicate their day to someone to show support to them and to help get through the tough days ahead. I dedicated my first day to my Aunt Jen who passed away from cervical cancer in 2011, who is still my daily inspiration. It was touching to listen to my teammates stories and learn why they were embarking on this summer.
Then, we set off on the summer of a lifetime.
This was the most amazing summer of my entire life. We biked up mountains, through the wind and rain, and on the most boring straight flat roads. On our second day, we didn’t have breakfast, my group and another group got lost and rode an extra twenty miles and ran our of water in 90 degree heat, and we had to bike up a mountain for lunch, but we pushed through thinking it had to be one of the hardest day. We were so wrong. On day three, it rained the entire day, we climbed up so many mountains, and I couldn’t find my raincoat. BUT, everyday was still filled with so many incredible laughs with my new family. They were the reason I got up at the crack of dawn and the reason I made it through the day. There was always someone there for you when you were having a hard day and you unthinkingly responded the same way for someone else. We spent so much time together with almost zero alone time that everyone bonded instantly.
Unfortunately for me, I broke my hand on day 12 of the trip. We were lost and I hit a pot-hole which twisted my hand awkwardly. One of my teammates helped me bike one-handed to the van which was already at the hospital for another teammate. I went to the hospital where the orthopedic surgeon informed me I needed surgery to fix the fracture. My mom and sister drove out to Ohio to pick me up. I thought my summer was over. Luckily, I was able to leave for 10 days to have surgery, have my post-op recheck, and then fly back out to meet my team. I could not bike for five weeks, but I was able to drive the support vans. My teammates whom I had only known for 12 short days were there to help me through everything and I could not have been there without them. And I was lucky to bike the last four weeks of the trip which was amazing!
Along the way, we get all of our places to stay and food donated. We stay in churches, schools, people’s homes, and occasionally camp. We stop in restaurants along the way to ask for food donations. Now, this seemed crazy to me. How many places were going to give 30 bicyclists three meals a day? Almost everywhere! The generosity of people when we explained our mission was incredible. There are so many incredible and generous people in this country that made our trip possible.
The places along the way we got to see were incredible. We biked through 23 states and visited many national parks, major cities, and tons of little towns no one had every heard of. Each offered different experiences and all were worth it. Talking to the people from the town helped bring back our mission after a long day.
My teammates. These are some of the most incredible and awe inspiring individuals. Everyone had a reason for starting this summer, but our reasons evolved throughout the summer due to the people we met or challenges we faced. Their stories are all different and their reasons for biking were so different, but we had one common goal. The summer was not easy, but we all came together as a family to push through and help each other. I would never have thought that 30 people could have made it across with so little drama, but we all knew we were there for something bigger than ourselves.
One of my teammates is the most incredible and bravest person I know. She was given a 50% chance of making it five years and she is on year seven! She has struggled with her fight but never lets it drag her down. She was always the one pushing everyone up the hill and probably drank a Red Bull when she got there. You would never know she has cancer because she doesn’t it slow her down. She has the biggest heart and most infectious personality, and she pushes me to be a better person.
This is something were are all incredibly passionate about. It changed all of our lives in so many ways and brought us to each other. I can’t picture my life before them and I don’t want to imagine my life without them. There are four different bike trips all starting in Baltimore and ending in either San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, or Seattle. There are also two run trips that start in San Francisco and end in either Baltimore or New York City. All are fantastic options depending on you!
If you are looking for something next summer, look into this amazing program! It WILL change your life.