Saturday, September 13, 2008
Friday, August 1, 2008
Thank you to all our friends, family, and supporters from home and across the country who have made this amazing experience possible!
I've uploaded a final album of pictures that runs through our spectacular arrival ceremony at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA!
All the riders will be sifting through their own photos and the team has organized a way to share them all with each other over the Internet, so ask your rider for the thousands of photos still to come!
Also, every team member will be contributing their own journal entry for our final day into San Francisco, and they will all be posted over the next week or so.
With such time restraints, a team dinner to make that night, and a complicated and important day tomorrow, Meg "da Leg Leader" and I decided to get some work done. We jumped in with Rob's parents at the lunch stop that they set up for us (thanks Mr. and Mrs. Kasten!!!) to go ahead and begin chalking out the 40+ turns for the next day. Though San Rafael is only about 20 miles north of the Golden Gate, the directions were complicated since we had to avoid the California highways.
The project became much more difficult than we had anticipated, and after about 3 hours of driving around getting lost and discovering non-existent bike paths, Meg and I decided to join the rest of the group (which had spent the last few hours shuttling over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge) at a great team dinner provided by Mrs. Gotimer (again, we love parents!)
Though the chalking and re-routing process went till about 4am, with some vital help from Thomas, Clare and Anna, and though no one on the team had time to shower, the adrenaline-pumped anticipation for our day into San Francisco kept everyone on their toes and ready...
It was so weird knowing we were so close to our goal - the landscape honestly eerily reminded us of something out of Kansas or Nebraska. All we could see for miles was fields of gold, though in California that unfortunately means dried crops. As we got closer to Stockton, however, we came upon some fruit trees and vineyards. Jess took one for the team and picked a bunch of grapes. Though they were very tart and obviously not meant for consumption, they hit it home for us that we were finally in California.
Though we got lost right before we hit Stockton, and I got flat tire (I've lost count of how many of those I've gotten on this trip) it was nice getting there for another great community dinner and homestays. After having some of the church's home-brewed beer, "St. Anne's Ale," Jesse and I settled in with our host, Sarah King, who shared with us the powerful story of her son who lost his battle to leukemia 30 years ago when he was only 20 years old. It is in memory of her son, she told us, that she hosts young men from the 4K every year.
A truly powerful story to have with us tomorrow on our last full day of riding into San Rafael.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
The first highlight of the day was Echo Summit, at which we all tried to yell and hear an echo, but to no avail. We yelled enough to make an effective scene, though. As we descended, we saw countless burned out patches of trees, reminding us of the ever-present danger of forest fires in California.
We were excited to meet our hosts in Diamond Springs, anticipating our first real community dinner and interaction in well over a week. Our expectations, however, did nothing to prepare us for the overwhelming hospitality, generosity, and kindness that we found at the Solid Rock Faith Center in Diamond Springs.
In addition to an amazing dinner, the church, along with the gym that provided showers for us, donated $2000 to our cause, which is something well beyond what we expected. Again, our appreciation for this community cannot truly be expressed in words. Pastors Sue and Don Pritchard were incredible.
The community also organized home stays for us, and Ondrej, Rob and I had the pleasure of staying with Mary and Pat Frost at their beautiful home overlooking the California valley. They also provided more hospitality than we could thank them for, and shared the story of their son, a many-time Iron Man and tri-athlete.
Without hesitation, I personally would say Diamond Springs, even as a brand new host for the 4K, was one of the greatest days we have had all summer. Their generosity and understanding of our mission is immeasurable.
We really knew we were in Nevada when we passed through Carson City, and saw a sign for marriage licenses down the street. The other interesting feature of Carson City was the towering mountains which we would climb shortly. Compared to the Rockies in Boulder, the Sierras stand nearly 2000 feet higher from base to peak. This made for an impressive display, towering over everything nearby.
As we arrived at our final climb into Tahoe, my bike odometer already showed 98 miles. We watched the Baby Bear/Hubie race begin; a rather uneventful start. We started up the mountain soon afterwards. After 2 months of biking, even the 11% grade did not feel awful. What WAS awful, however, was the 40 mph wind which played with us, occasionally helping along with a tailwind, but mostly destroying our speed as a headwind. After over an hour, I finally arrived at the top of Dagget Summit, 2400 feet higher, and 8 miles closer. The cheering was incredibly intense as each person arrived and joined, but it was indeed an amazing feeling. I can only imagine if the euphoria approached the triumph of successful chemotherapy. After just a few short miles of descent, we were in view of the lake. We arrived at the Lake Tahoe Presbyterian Church extremely late, but very happy.
On our day off the following day, I decided that hanging around was not quite what I wanted to do. Considering the absolutely amazing views just outside the door, I decided to go for a short bike ride to look around. Before I knew it, I was already halfway up the (extremely steep) hill above Emerald Bay. Considering the absolutely amazing view, I decided that I might as well spend the day biking around the entire lake. From reading the placards, I found out that Lake Tahoe is the third biggest lake in North America- 22 miles long and 12 miles wide. At 1600 feet deep, it contains enough water to cover the state of California in 14 inches of water. Its bottom is in fact lower than Carson City. The water is so clear, objects 75 feet deep remain visible. The gorgeous deep blue color is due to the color of the sky; during stormy days, the water is gray or nearly black. Following my extremely long but rewarding day, I finished off with some yummy Chinese food and went to sleep.
The desert was absolutely beautiful during the sunrise, however, making most of us forger we were running on little sleep. After a few miles, we took a long descent onto the desert floor, and the terrain changed from canyons and shrubs to mostly sand. Anyone on the team will tell you that today was not only filled with many scenery changes, but also some very weird sites.
Our lunch stop was set up under a very large tree. Yet this wasn’t just a tree to provide us with some much needed shade. We dubbed the tree the ‘Shoe Tree’ because hundreds and hundreds of shoes were either hanging from its branches or strewn about underneath. We debated for a while what sort of cult-like activity people out here were up to with this tree, but no consensus was reached.
Following the tree, and after another nice downhill, we again found ourselves biking in the open desert. My group of Yogi, Meg, and myself started noticing some odd warning signs posted on fences lining the road. Meg got curious, stopped her bike in the middle of the road, and decided to walk over and check them out. The signs said something along the lines of “Restricted Area – Keep Out,” so we immediately decided it must be some top secret military nuclear site. Sounds cool, right?
We came upon some really spectacular salt flats near the end of the day, and saw hundreds of messages written out on the sand with rocks along the road. We dubbed it ‘western graffiti.’ A long day, but, as always, some amazing sights along the way.
The two climbs were challenges, but nothing we hadn’t seen or conquered before. As we began to downhill, the town came up fast, since the entire town is built on the ridge. Austin was once a booming silver mining hotspot, but has since dwindled to a population of about 300 people. Donna White, our host at the Austin Baptist Church, has been touched very personally by cancer. Her son battled the disease for nearly 30 years, before dying of natural causes. She understood the power of our mission, and was a gracious host for our two nights in town.
There is only so much to do on a day off in such a small town. We spent the first night putting together a drive-in movie on the church yard, which required Taylor to climb onto the roof to hang a sheet for the screen. It was simply awesome. On the day off, most of the team ate upwards of 3 meals at the local diner, and some of us made it out to the local pool in a naturally heated pool (the sun is really hot out here). All in all, a great few days out in the Nevada desert.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Late Afternoon – Arrival in San Rafael, CA to the Lucas Valley Community Church.
Night – Team dinner.
Saturday, July 26
6:15am (approx) – departure from Lucas Valley Community Church
(Guests are welcome to come see us off it they would like)
2000 Las Gallinas Ave
San Rafael, CA 94903
8:45am – Estimated time of arrival at the observation point on the north (Sausalito) side of the bridge. Team will stop for regrouping, photos, etc.
9:00am-9:15am – Crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge.
9:15am-9:30am – Estimated time of arrival at the beach at Crissy Field on the south (San Francisco) side of the bridge.
9:30am-10:30am – Arrival ceremony hosted by the American Cancer Society, including a toast, tire-dipping ceremony, pictures, and breakfast.
11:00am-1:00pm – Final team Pow-Wow on the beach, followed by van clean-out and claiming of lost items. (Family and friends, during this time we ask that the team have its final moments alone.)
Sunday, July 27
1:00pm-5:00pm – BBQ at the house of rider Judy Penati. All are welcome and asked to RSVP through your team member.
128 Lyford Drive
(There is a ferry from Pier 41 to downtown Tiburon from where the Penatis have offered to shuttle people to their house. Street parking there is available.)
Today, we began what I have been looking forward to for a long time – the 'Loneliest Highway in America' – aka Route 50 through Nevada. Though we felt there were more cars to justify the title, it was still a fun experience.
My group of Ondrej, Rob, Ben, Katie, and myself felt very free riding down the road, and we positioned ourselves effectively to reduce drag and fly openly down the road. We got a lot of support in the form of honks and cheers from many of the cars that passed us, which really helped make the long day through the dessert a lot of fun.
It was a long day, and the groups arrived rather staggered, but Eureka, NV is known as the “Friendliest Town on the Loneliest Road in America,” and it sure lived up to its name. We were hosted at the school's gymnasium, and were treated to delicious burgers, shakes, and Mexican food at DJ's diner. All in all, another good day in a nice, small town.-Dan
It was a fun ride into Ely, we stopped at a neat roadside restaurant for our lunch stop where we left a signed dollar bill as a memento for them to add to their entire wall of signed dollar bills! When we finally arrived in Ely, we were welcomed by a free public BBQ across the street that we were kindly allowed to crash. It was an awareness and publicity effort for a new coal power plant they want to build 20 miles out of the city. After the BBQ and refreshing showers, a bunch of us checked out the local karaoke bar for a bit of fun before bed!
Anna E. S. Johnston
This morning we woke up to Yogetta's bike strung up to the basketball hoop behind the school in Milford. Though we liked to say it was a mischievous local, the 4K yellow rope kind of gave it away as an inside job. The culprit is still on the lose. No arrests have been made.
Today was the day of the three uphills, with three equal down hills. This is the topography that 4Kers love, because we always look for that reward after a climb. After each summit, we descended into beautiful (and empty) valleys. I think the entire team finally realized we were truly in the middle of the desert.
Near the end of the day, we began to enter Great Basin National Park, and out of the dry terrain came a large lake. Only a few more miles down the road, after I had been complaining the entire day about not seeing any major wildlife crossing the road, we saw a heard of maybe a dozen antelope (or a similar animal, sorry I'm not an expert) run across the road maybe 20 feet in front of us. All three of us struggled to get our cameras out, but I think Greg was the only one to actually get a shot of them on the road. It was really exciting.
Of course, the greatest part of the day was reaching the Nevada state border, and the Pacific Time Zone! We are that much closer to west coast. Though Baker was a tiny, tiny town, the hospitality was huge, and we were treated to great lodging and a nice community dinner. Time and time again, it is always the smallest towns that show the greatest kindness towards the team and our cause.-Dan
This morning we said goodbye to the last major city we would see in a while. The ride to Milford, UT, our last stop in the state, was pretty short by current 4K standards (somewhere in the 50s) and only a little uphill. As always, a scary-looking storm cloud was on our tail for the entire ride, so we decided to push it the entire way.
Near the end, there was a ridiculously steep hill, and we had a right turn to make at the end. My team sees this little boy in his yard playing with a metal rake (don't ask me why). After Clare, Amy, and myself pass the yard, the little boy runs out to the street and smacks Meg right in her ribs with the rake. She was a little shaken up, a little angry, but mostly shocked. I guess we experience something new every day.
It was great staying at the Milford High School, since not only were there nice showers, but also the community pool right next door. Of course, most of the team took a nice cool dip before settling in for the night. Without a community dinner, we decided to use the school kitchen to make delicious (and maybe even nutritious) grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, and tuna melts. Even though we love dinners where we can interact with the community and share stories, some team-bonding food making is always fun!
Today we made it to Cedar City, UT! We started out the morning with a steep 6 mile climb out of Bryce Canyon and onto a plateau. Laughter could be heard from the top of the summit as 4kers approached the summit sign which read 7777 feet. For the next 20 miles we descended from the plateau down an amazing bike path through Red Canyon. The bike trail was long and winding and we could see fellow riders far below as we skirted the red cliffs and arches characteristic of Utah's rugged landscape. Our day ended with a 14 mile climb and two of the later groups found thunderstorms waiting for them at the top. The van drivers faced the dreaded task of informing some riders that they would have to cut their lunch stop short in order to outrun the approaching rain. Our consolation prize was a beautiful 20 mile downhill that ended somewhat unexpectedly 4 miles from the bottom of the hill as an 18-wheeler had crashed minutes before the first group arrived. It was around a sharp curve and it made us all appreciate our experience. The truck driver was fine, but the crash made us all really think twice about biking safety.
For all of you parents with a tendency towards nail biting who are reading this, all 28 of us made it into Cedar City safely and on time (at least for the most part.) Upon arriving, we were welcomed at the Episcopal Church where we will be spending the next two nights. We just came back from dinner at the Cedar City Catholic Church where we had a delicious dinner of lasagna, salad and as a treat for dessert, strawberries whipped cream and shortcake. Cedar City is having a fair tonight with live music, a car show and tons of vendors with various treats, jewelry and local goods. We are all excited to fall asleep in our warm sleeping bags, our bellies full of Utah hospitality, and our bodies rejuvenated for Zion National Park and all of the other activities that await us on our day off tomorrow. It's good to be in Cedar City!
-Sarah and Katie Biggart
It was nice to hear that after two very hard and long days, we would be treated to a nice 40 mile journey into Tropic, UT, right outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. Unfortunately, the weather never cooperates with us. The first 20 miles was slightly uphill, but we were met with a nasty headwind that made it feel like a serious climb the entire way.
We were able to down hill the rest of the way into town, where we got to stay at Bryce Valley High School. It was a beautiful school, fit with showers, plenty of air-conditioned sleeping areas, cooking facilities, and wireless internet. Since it was a short day, the group got to take a nice nap in the afternoon before getting together with some music and tie-dye aprons to make burritos. After dinner, a bunch of the team members went to the park to explore around and take in the beautiful sites. Since we were told there would be some significant climbing the next day, most the team (at least myself) hit the hay early, awaiting another challenging yet rewarding day on the 4K.
It is time to tell the non-sugar coated truth of the Hopkins 4K for Cancer. People who snore are persecuted and ostracized. I do not enjoy condemnation and humiliation for an act I cannot control, and if you ever heard my Dad, you would understand that it is purely hereditary. That being said, I was woken up in the middle of the night because of something I cannot control to be asked to stop doing something I cannot control. Yes, I am bitter about the anti-Snorites. But it was a glorious morning. Biking when it is cool outside is surprisingly refreshing.
Leaving Loa, all I had in my head was Tom's stunning rendition of The Kinks song Lola modified to Loa, L-O-A, Loa. Pretty clever, eh? My group was Judy and friends, the friends being Benji and me. The day started innocently enough. We breezed through to the first water stop; the terrain was predominately downhill with little rolling hills. It was quite relaxing. But honestly, that never lasts long.
We entered the Dixie National Forest after the water stop. We climbed and climbed and then climbed some more. It was beautiful though. Utah is the strangest state ever (in terms of landscape). You bike through deserts that are next to forests and canyons and the entire state seems like a grab bag. It was nice to see some green after the desert.
After the fake summit and the real summit at 9600 feet, there was an incredible downhill (don't worry Mom, I was safe). There is no better feeling than cruising after busting your rear to get up a mountain. Then we got to the most exciting part of the day. The name of the trail was the Devil's Backbone. Does not sound good. The parents reading this just cringed. But it was awesome. The trail was definitely wonky. It was a ridge that was ridiculously gusty and serpentine with 14 percent downward grades. But we took it slowly and it was unlike anything I have ever seen.
There was a mean little climb after the backbone. But everyone was cheering each other on, and it was one of those moments that you realized how much better you are than when you started. When we finally got into Escalante, we found out there was a water main break at the State Park, so we couldn't stay there. So Judy and friends went to Subway and ate delicious sandwiches and then ice cream sandwiches that have 500 calories, which is wonderfully irrelevant when you bike 80 miles in a day :)
We showered in a reservoir and it was delightful. Some people went to Georgie's diner. She let us camp out in her yard. That's all folks.
I snore loud, I snore proud,
After a short ride into Green River from Moab, we were all ready to take on our most challenging day of the trip. We woke up dark and early at 3:50 AM and got ready to welcome the sun. I remember last year waking up in Green River before 4 AM and having one of the hardest days of the trip into Capitol Reef National Park. Today we would be going to the same campground where the 2007 team stayed and then continuing on for another 26 miles.
The beginnings of today were rather pleasant, before the sun finally topped the hills to the east we had already ridden 10 miles and had but 113 to go. In the morning we welcomed the sun, to warm us on the brisk morning, but the very sun that took the chill off of the early Green River morning, would heat our route to well over 100 degrees by late afternoon.
Dan, James, Clare and I were 27 miles into the day when in the distance we saw a stand alone rock formation. We decided to take guesses on how far away the rocks were. Seven miles later when the rock was still sitting on the horizon I was out of contention for being the closest, at mile 13 we had finally reached the rocks which seemed to be just down the road over half an hour ago. James and Clare were close with their guesses of 10 and 15 miles respectively while Dan overshot by 7.
Things seeming to be closer than they really were was a theme of the day. We arrived at a waterfall in Capitol Reef at mile 90 and were all feeling like this day was going to fly by. We dropped into the waterfall for a swim and so began the physical challenges of the day. The challenge at the waterfall was to swim behind the falling water. I was the first to accomplish this after my third or fourth attempt and was treated by an amazing view of the back of the cascading waterfall. In time everyone else who cared to try swimming back made it and we all agreed that it was well worth the effort. After basking in the mid-day sun for a few minutes to dry off we were back on the road to lunch part two.
Mile 95 brought our second lunch stop of the day at the camp ground where the '07 team had stayed the night. We were treated to homemade pies, ice cream and Henry Weinhart's soda at a little cottage that served as a gift shop at the campground. Leaving lunch was 7 miles of steep climbing, something that we have grown accustomed to ever since we crossed the Rockies. What we were not accustomed to however, was trying to climb in 100 degree weather after 100 miles of biking. Those seven miles took our group nearly two hours and the mid-afternoon had painfully turned into the early evening.
Topping the climb we had only 18 miles into Loa, we were already at our second longest day on the trip and had climbed more feet than any other day. We were in Southern Utah baking in the sun and still had 18 miles of slight uphill to finish the day. When finally arriving in Loa we were beaten, burned and overall demoralized. While it was satisfying to know that we had actually finished a day of 123 miles with nearly two miles of vertical climbing, there was no cheer or joy. We were physically exhausted beyond belief and food was scarce due to the town of Loa closing at 8 and most groups getting in around 7.
Finishing the day drove home the point that sometimes days are just hard and even though they end, you do not necessarily feel refreshed and renewed to take on the next day. This day will make tomorrow more difficult than it should be and the day after as well, but all said and done, 123 miles is a badge of pride that we can all wear. When we look at hard days in the future, they will come nowhere near comparing to this brutal day. There are obvious parallels to individual battles with cancer, some days are better than others and some days seem like they will never end, but weeks later when you look back you can grow from the struggles that you have already endured.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Photos from the road are uploaded about once a week, so make sure to check out the most recent updates at http://picasaweb.google.com/4k4cancer!
Speaking of water, the morning started off by our group visiting a natural spring and filling our bottles with delicious natural spring water tapped from the underground water deep inside the red rocks of Moab. Much of the team was concerned about parasites or water contamination... not me. The crystal clear water was truly satiating, a beverage that really hit the spot.
The first part of the route started on a bike path that took us to the entrance of Arches National Park. Eventually the bike path deteriorated to the point where it was unusable; my group of three riders decided to crawl under a barbed wire fence that divided the bike path and the state road and ride along the road. Eventually, we reached our first water stop: the Moab municipal airport. The second leg of the day took us to I-70, where we were aided by a brisk tail wind all the way to Green River, UT. The short 50 mile day ended in Green River at around noon. We were served lunch by the staff of the Green River Community Center. Their staff consists of a number of AmeriCorps volunteers who assist in their summer children's program. It was interesting to hear their story because in many ways, they were going through a similar experience as us. We are both groups of volunteers spending our summers together for a specific cause.
I was particularly impressed by the generosity of the town. In a town with a 40% poverty rate, the community welcomed us with food and shelter, even when resources are stretched as they are. It is the spirit of a town like Green River that I will remember fondly when I look back on this trip.
With that said, crossing into Utah was difficult. The vast difference in scenery was welcomed by most, but it was also clear that we were entering challenging territory. One of the riders told a story about how her mom reads all the blogs and doesn’t buy the fact that everything is peachy, and hunky-dory, and whatever other fluffed up adjectives we can conjure up. I thought that was funny because it is true that we avoid talking about the hard times, the exploding tires at 100 degree water stops, the swarms of terrorizing mosquitoes while we’re playing hide and seek with cell phone service in rural towns so we can try to talk to our girlfriends/boyfriends before bed, the saddle sores, the snoring, and the five day old bag of breakfast sausage that we gamble with. So in the spirit of the 4K journal entries, I won’t talk about barking like a dog on my way up the last big climb before Utah because I was delirious, or about hitting a pothole going down the mountain at 40 miles per hour. I won’t talk about the tourist trap “Hole “N the Rock” with its excessive use of apostrophes on the “”N” and out of place petting zoo with a wallaby that my team got sucked into. For that matter, I won’t talk about having to check for snakes in the abandoned gas station where we stopped for lunch. But because I know my grandma reads these entries ritually (Hi Gram and Gramps!) I’ll just talk about how excited I was to get to Utah and see Arches National Park, and to meet our gracious host Pastor Howe at Moab Baptist Church, because that’s what Moab brought to us.
As sad as it was to part with Colorado, I know that Utah will bring unique and exciting experiences, and I’m happy to hand my leg leader duties off to Meg so that she can get up 10 minutes before wake up to start hunting down riders who are sleeping in the most obscure of places!
Honestly, I conclude my leg with extreme satisfaction, and the minor bumps along the road pale in comparison to the magnitude, gravity and enjoyment that the 4K brings: no fluff.
With limited muttering and sarcasm (Tom, your impression still needs work,)
Friday, July 11, 2008
by Ron Georg
As the 25 riders on the Hopkins 4k for Cancer bicycle tour across the United States gathered into a circle in the Moab Baptist Church parking lot on Tuesday morning, their friendly banter stopped abruptly. They were getting ready to ride, and it was time to focus on their purpose.
Holding hands and facing each other across the big circle, they shared stories about the people they’re riding for. After each story, they fell silent. Without any cues, another rider would break the quiet, offering another testimony in soft, reverent tones.
The ride has a three-pronged mission – to spread awareness, raise funds, and foster hope. The morning dedication helps the riders maintain their own sense hope, according to rider and spokesman Daniel Ingram.
“When we dedicate our rides, it’s very important to us,” Ingram said. “On a hard day, biking up a mountain, if you keep in the back of your mind that you’ve dedicated your ride to someone back home, or someone you met along the way that’s battling cancer, it helps get up that mountain.”
Before the mood in the circle grew too somber, Ingram steered the riders back toward their purpose, announcing it was time to hit the road. He broke the spell with a quick call-and-response: “Where are we from?”
“Where are we going?”
The riders unclasped their hands to clap, and with a quick cheer they gathered their bikes and rode off in small groups. Out on the road, they spread out to avoid impeding traffic. In clusters of three or four, without any banners to announce their purpose, they become anonymous cyclists on the road.
Even in a group, riding a bike over distance is an individual challenge. “Every day biking 80 to 100 miles, it’s hard to do that if you don’t have a real purpose,” Ingram said. “Biking for a reason really helps, it’s powerful.”
The reasons to ride were powerful enough to inspire Yogeeta Manglani to overcome a major obstacle to participate. “When I signed up for it I didn’t know how to ride a bike,” Manglani said. “I mean, I did, but on a smaller bike, and it had been a long time. When we got these bikes, I was like, uh-oh, I think I’m in trouble. I went on a training ride, and I went straight into traffic.”
Manglani has since become comfortable enough on the road to appreciate that traffic isn’t all the same. “We’ve gone through some cities, like Moab, that are so bike friendly,” she said. “You do go through cities where people seem to just want you off the road.”
Cancer hasn’t impacted Manglani personally. She said communicable diseases were bigger issues when she was growing up in Dubai. However, she has been impressed by cancer’s prevalence in this country, especially because she is a public health major in college.
“The cause is something that’s really close to my heart. Once I got here, everyone knows someone who’s got cancer,” she said. The ride, she explained, provides her with an opportunity to help address a gap she sees in cancer care. “I feel like prevention isn’t stressed enough in the U.S. health system. The amount of money they spend on research is enormous compared to the amount they spend on prevention.”
Throughout the ride, the cyclists will spread their message, which includes information on prevention. “Most of the places we stay are at a church or community center,” Ingram said. “That’s our time to share our stories, and allow them to share their stories with us.”
While they didn’t have a chance to give a presentation in Moab, they still didn’t let an opportunity slip past. As they’re getting ready to leave, rider Jessica Arms handed Moab Baptist Church Pastor Cole Howe a handful of pamphlets, and she asked if he can work their message into his own.
The church hosted the riders from their two-night stay in Moab, as well as their one-day rest. “We can’t give them money, but we what they really need is a place to stay, and we can offer that,” Howe said. He added that while the church isn’t fully equipped as a hostel – it doesn’t have a shower – he can point them to all the resources they need.
Ingram said that sort of hospitality is the norm. From free burgers to bike service to lodging, the riders have enjoyed the kindness of strangers. Manglani even told of a woman who gave them the run of her house, and then handed her a set of car keys with no instructions beyond “enjoy yourselves.”
By the end of the ride, Ingram expects to bring in $100,000. That includes the $4,000 each rider is required to raise before the event. While that amount is up from last year’s $3,500, it didn’t dissuade Greg Gotimer from signing up for a second trip.
“You start sending letters out, thinking, $4,000, this is going to be tough,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people will donate $100.”
This is the seventh year the Hopkins 4K has come through Moab. While Moab isn’t on most cross-county routes, Ingram said his group seeks a more scenic route, which is how they rack up 4,000 miles between Baltimore and San Francisco. They’ll reach the West Coast on July 26.
Most of the riders on the trip range in age from 18 to 26 and are students at Johns Hopkins University. More information about the ride, the riders and the cause is available at the ride website, www.hopkins4k.org.
Monday, July 7, 2008
St. Jude's Episcopal Church
Attn: Hopkins4K for Cancer - Rider's Name
70 N 200 W
Cedar City, UT 84720
Bikers ride coast-to-coast to raise money, awareness for cancer
By Jeff Caspersen
Today saw the formation of Team Mountain Men, which included us men with overgrown and unkempt facial hair (sorry Mom). This included Tom, Andrew, Jesse, Ankit, Rob, and myself. We of course only communicated in grunts and growls.
The day involved two significant climbs. On the first one, I saw a biker a good distance ahead. Thinking it was a 4Ker, I pushed myself to catch up, only to find out it was in fact a 66 year old woman. Amazed, I biked alongside her for the rest of the climb. It turns out she was training for a bike ride she wanted to do with her son into Moab, UT. It was inspiring (and a good kick to my ego) to see this woman pushing the physical limits of the body at such an old age.
The downhill after the climb lasted a good 15 miles into a beautiful canyon, where we had a great burrito lunch at a rest stop. Following this year's tradition, it started to rain and we all huddled under a shed before be forced back on the road. After a few more miles of pleasant, yet wet and cold, downhill, we all learned the downside to being in a canyon – you have climb out of it. I found it weird when, at the top of the climb, instead of being at a picturesque peak, we looked out onto rolling plains.
We got what turned out to be one of our last glimpses of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains before continuing on to the little town of Naturita, CO. While sitting around at the school we were staying at that night, a few local kids came by with their BMX bikes to show us some tricks. We tried to imitate the wheelies, unfortunately to no avail. The only cool thing we could show off was our mud-covered bikes and bodies from the miles of wet and muddy riding.
We were treated to a great barbecue dinner and drinks at the local saloon, before hitting the hay, some of us later than others.-Dan
Happy Fourth of July!! This morning, the group got to sleep in till 8am (woohoo!) and then march in the Paonia Fourth of July Parade. I led our 4K cheer at least a dozen times along the route, rousing up the group and the crowd. Somehow, my voice is still working. Though not a very long day into Montrose, it was blistering hot, making every mile on the road that much harder. The terrain also changed significantly, and all of a sudden we found ourselves biking through what seemed like arid desert. Jesse wanted us to make it in before 5pm so that we could also participate in the Montrose Parade, so we kept up a pretty good pace.
Without a confirmed host in Montrose (our planned host unfortunately had to back out), we revised the parade route cheer to include “What do we need? Housing!” Luckily, it paid off and a lovely family allowed us to camp out in their backyard. With a trampoline (which Ben couldn't pull himself away from), water guns (Henry and Chris had an impressive showdown) and fireworks to launch at night, it became one of the best hosts we've had so far.
The constant generosity we encounter along the way truly amazes us sometimes, and even in a place where we had no arranged plans, community members come out and support us. It is situations like this that show the power of caregivers and community, especially for those we know undergoing cancer treatments.
It was sad to leave Glenwood Springs, especially because we were giving up our opportunity to truly experience the hot springs. My group of Rob and Amy were excited for the day though, knowing there was a day off at the end of it. The first twenty miles were nice and flat, with farm lands on either side of the road. I got a kick out of seeing a tractor-crossing sign on the road with the snow-capped mountains in the background.
Before any real climbing, we came upon a beautiful waterfall. Of course, the team stopped and found the energy to hike up the hillside and get a spectacular view of the water from the top. It also gave us time to be off the bike, and also tell the other tourists about our trip. Like always, we got some great reactions.
Finally (maybe not happily) we reached McClure Pass, a challenging three miles straight up the mountain. It posed a good challenge to the team, and even the groups that got rained on still felt great getting up it. The reward for the climb was a great downhill to a nice lunch stop on a ledge overlooking a beautiful valley. We were told the rest of the day would be nice and easy into Paonia, making us all excited.
It was going great until we reached a side road with several railroad crossings. Knowing me, I of course had to take one at just the wrong angle to get my tire stuck. I was thrown to the ground, with the battle scars to prove it, and Rob, who was right behind me, ran right into me. There is nothing like a good fall, however, to motivate you to finish the day.
It was the annual Cherry Days Festival in Paonia, so our day off was filled with fun things to do. It was great walking around the town, exploring the stores, eating free food and cherry ice cream, and buying awsomely-ugly t-shirts for three bucks. It is small communities like Paonia, who open up their arms to our group and cause, that make long and mountainous days worth it.
Clad in their most spandexey of spandex, the Team to End All Teams circled up like any other day..but today was anything but a normal day, like I mentioned earlier, pay attention. Today was to be a very difficult day, fraught with peril and other thinks a lot like peril. Rob dedicated his ride to Danny Sussman, hoping that the enthusiasm that he is showing in his fight with cancer would somehow reach him as he climbed through the Rockies.
::dramatic music and drumroll::
The Sausages began the morning with a rousing chant of “Jimmy Dean: Sausage links and patties,” and then started the climb through the mountains. Climbing out of Kremmling, they made their first turn...
Onto a dirt road.
These were trying times for all sausages. Momo's knees continued to hover right on the verge of snapping due to his seeming inability to shift into any lower gear. Seriously man, really? Tom wouldn't shut up about the scenery. The bears (Papa and Uncle Hubie Bear) were their quiet, pensive selves, with PBJ gently muttering and Uncle Hubie blasting Pearl Jam.
Downhills were the most dangerous part. Imagine, if you will, driving over a rumble strip. Now imagine that you are doing that on a bike with no shocks. Now make those rumble strips uneven, on a 7% grade downhill at 30 mph, and with random large rocks in the way. Its kind of like that but worse.
Despite the harsh road conditions, the wurst were treated to some of the most b-e-a-utiful vistas of the entire trip. Breath-taking canyons with miniature railroad and Colorado River (we crossed it today!) winding through the bottom. The scenery started to become more barren, with jagged red rocks and sparse green scruff dominating the views.
With bums totally numb from the morning's dirt road action (which lasted about 30ish miles) and a nice thunderstorm scare (with unsafe fire and boulder (looking at you James)), Sausages reached the bike path that would take them into Glenwood. The path ran adjacent to the raging (totes rage) Colorado River, sandwiched between two 300 ft sheer cliffs on either side (and I-70.) Only a few miles out, a major obstacle: The bike path was closed due to flooding. With little choice in the matter (we couldn't bike on the interstate), we had to ford the river. The water turned out to be only a few inches (read: 6-7) with little current. The real fun was getting everybody's bikes over the 12 foot high chain link fence on the other side. The sausages also took delight in watching Ondrej try (and succeed...) in fitting through a hole in the fence really not meant for a man of his size.
The hot springs people wouldn't let us in, which caused much displeasure. But a team SAUSAGE day without any flats? Was that mentioned yet? No flats? BOOSH! What a day.
No flats! -- Rob out --
Kremmling, CO – It has been reported that today was a relatively easy day for the 25 riders of the great organization called Hopkins 4k for Cancer. Witnesses claim that most of the 46 mile ride was downhill and the riders pedaled at most once or twice. The riders seemed pleased about this, stating that the last two days had been intensely hard, with climbing up Trail Ridge and touching the snow line at 12,000 feet and what not.
Our sources also stated that it was one rider, Yogeeta's (affectionately known as Yogi Bear or Precious) 20th birthday. She was going to use this happy occasion as an excuse to ride the van instead of her bicycle, but changed her mind at the last minute when she found out what the terrain was like. When we interviewed her after the ride she said, “I am really glad I decided to man up and ride my bike today. I got to see some incredible scenery on the way from Grand Lake to Kremmling. It just would not have been the same if I were in a car. Also, my team and I thought it would be a great idea to take a break by the swampiest part of the Colorado River. We ended up getting attacked by an angry storm of mosquitoes and spent the rest of the day simultaneously scratching our arms and legs while biking. I would not have missed this for the world.”
Another reason for her happiness was the fact that her team, which consisted of her fellow band members Alison (aka Harmony) and Katie (aka Destiny), Jess Arms (aka Hater) and Jesse (aka PBJ/ Papa Bear), decided to celebrate her birthday with a breakfast at the Bear's Den instead of leaving with the other groups. The 'Papa Stacks' of pancakes, free slice of chocolate cheesecake, eggs and root beer were reported to be delicious. The team finally got on their bikes at 11:45 am, mainly because Papa Bear was getting restless and angry, and they did not want to deal with the wrath of Papa Bear.
Once they reunited with the other riders in Kremmling, they had the good fortune of meeting Kim and Glyn, their hosts for the night. Kim and Glyn are two sisters who reside in a cute house by the church where the riders were taking shelter for the night and were described as “great” and “awesome”. Kim is learning Hindi and spent a large part of the dinner conversing with Yogeeta and Ankit and sharing her love of the language, Indian culture and Bollywood movies. Yogeeta later found out that she has over 200 Bollywood movies and remembers most of the actors by name, which basically made Yogeeta's day.
In conclusion, the day ended well, everyone went to bed quite content, stuffed with tacos and frosted cookies. The general consensus was that Colorado rocks and that it is going to be hard to find memory space for the gazillions of pictures that are being taken of the gorgeousness all around.
This article brought to you by Yogeeta Manglani.
(Illegal Message thrown into article – Papa, Mama, Hits, Dings love you and miss you guys!)
12300 feet. Our final elevation. Our day started at a mere 7600 feet, at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Although you'd expect the climb to be the hardest part of the day, the elevation of the area was in fact far worse.
Elevation has a huge effect on your body, much of which may not be immediately obvious. While walking across town in Grand Lake last night, I was panting for air despite the extremely low exertion. At 12300 feet, an otherwise gradual and relatively easy hill becomes an insurmountable mountain, as the body tries to utilize more oxygen than the lungs can provide. The first 20 feet after a brief rest feels so great, so easy, yet it quickly becomes nearly impossible after your muscles have burned all the available oxygen.
Despite the 25 mile 4000 foot climb, the extreme elevation, and all the associated hardships, the mountain was absolutely spectacular. Each turn, each hairpin provided new vistas, more beauty. At each turn, I thought, wow, I should take more pictures – it can't get any better than this. Yet it does. At the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, we were already stunned by the view. The beauty there was breathtaking, snowcapped mountains framed by lush evergreen forest. Within a few miles of entering the park, we were already a few hundred feet up, and we stopped to take pictures of various people climbing a tree.
We first passed snow around 9800 feet. Just pass the 10560 ft elevation sign (2 miles above sea level!), we stopped and launched a few snowballs at passing riders. Unfortunately, we didn't hit anyone, but it gave us a moment to reflect – we just biked from Baltimore to snow in the middle of summer! As we pushed on, the elevation made moving harder and harder, but we were motivated by the majesty of the views. Just short of 11,700 feet, we passed the famed “4K Rock”, and everyone took pictures of the mountain with bikes over their heads.
When we finally reached the highest elevation on the road – 12,183 feet, we stopped for some pictures. Greg told us that he climbed the hill just behind the road last year, so we figured we might as well do the same. The route up was extremely rocky and steep, but reaching the top was absolutely worth the effort. At our final elevation – 12,314 feet, we took panoramic pictures and videos. The surrounding peaks no longer towered above us, and the crystal clear sky allowed us views for miles. The sense of accomplishment was palpable, which didn't even account for the anticipation of our coming descent.
After a brief stop at the lodge at 11,796 feet for some lunch, we set off on our descent. Within a few hundred feet of leaving the lodge, I was already at 30 mph and climbing. The first hairpin was a hair RAISING ordeal. The label for the turn was only 15 mph, but I couldn't brake down to less than 25 mph. What more could I do but bank as hard as I can and hope there's no gravel? The turn was off the edge of a cliff, and I couldn't decide what I wanted to look at more – the road, or the mountains in the distance. Good thing I choose the road, otherwise I would be PART of the mountains right now!
After dropping a good 1000 feet at petrifying speeds, we arrived at the continental divide. On one side of the line, water flowed toward the Atlantic ocean; on the other side, the Pacific. More pictures later, we descended another 1000 feet toward Grand Lake. The hairpins kept coming, but our speeds kept climbing. Although each turn was labeled for only 15 mph, we topped out at 35. That was by far the most out of vertical I've ever been on a bike! Through the entire descent, the exhilaration was matched only by the beauty of the mountains in the distance, and it was a constant battle for attention – control of the bike or the beautiful view.
As we ended our descent, the mountains opened up to Grand Lake, a spectacular lake nestled within mountains. As night passed, we were stunned by the sky, packed with many more stars than normally visible. Although the town had many street lamps, the Milky Way remained obvious. The entire day will be one I will remember for the rest of my life.
“Everything happens for a reason.” - random conversation with another 4K rider
Seven days before the ride into Estes Park—the hardest ride of the trip—I was hit from the back and almost lost all hopes of seeing the Golden Gate Bridge with the team this year. The slow collision pushed my bike seat into the lower part of my spine leaving me with no feeling in my feet for a short period of time. As I began 'hospital hopping' from Red Cloud Hospital for a CAT scan to Karney hospital for an MRI, stranded on a backboard, I realized how quickly something can be taken away from you. In an instant I literally went from biking across the country to not being able to walk. It was emotionally and mentally frustrating as I took for granted the most important asset of all—my good health. Strapped onto the board for the next nine hours, all I thought about were the things I had planned to do in the future that would require mobility. The NYC marathon I want to run in the near future, the school I want to build in Baghdad, playing sports with campers as a counselor, etc. Fortunately, I began to gain feeling in my toes. A buzz of senses came alive and I knew that everything would be okay. The MRI was negative and I was left with wearing a back brace for the rest of the week.
Seven days later, the ride (climb rather) into Estes Park, became a test of how I was going to see myself for the rest of the trip. “How are you feeling?” Each rider asked me affectionately. I didn't know to be honest, but I thought the famous mountain ahead would generously let me know. I grouped up with Hubert, Dan, and Papa Bear (Jesse). As the climb began I saw Hubert and Jesse ride ahead. Knowing that I needed the motivation of others to push myself over this, especially with the constant back pain, I knew that I would have to push myself and stay with Jesse and Hubert. The climb came out to be that much more special as we screamed and yelled 'MAN UP!!!' to help each other stay pumped. As a group we climbed the twenty miles uphill to reach at about 9,000 feet of elevation.
Everything that goes up must come down and we did with big grins on our faces, but before going downhill we searched for our sweats in Thomas' van as the temperature was less than 50 degrees at the top of the mountain. The rest of the ride was a beautiful downhill with a short stop by a lake reflecting the snows of the mountains in background. Speechless by the view, we envied a bride and groom getting married and began conversing with the wedding crew. After a couple of group photos we flew the next fifteen miles (getting lost twice) and ending up at the YMCA of the Rockies—more of a resort than a YMCA.
The ride rejuvenated my hopes of being able to successfully complete this journey and to finally be able to see The Golden Gates of San Francisco. It reminded me of the beautiful bond of a team, and the compassion that complete strangers a month ago could have once brought together to complete a common goal. The ride and the trip in general has also changed my views on people. When given the right components to live a good life which I have been raised on to believe are a mixture of loyalty, honesty, respect, trust and love will be its constant means.
As I was wheel-chaired back to my hospital bed, two visitors came to take me back to the church in Franklin, Nebraska. Thinking about my family back home and my new 27 brothers and sisters, the presence of people caring about my health made me fall asleep soundly in the car ride back to Franklin.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Wiggins hosts Hopkins 4K team
Riders stay at Summit Baptist Church
By DAN BARKER
Monday, June 30, 2008
Every year the Hopkins 4K for Cancer bicycle marathon rides through Wiggins — and this year was no different.
Last week, 25 riders and three team support staffers rode to the Summit Baptist Church after a month on the road. They still had another month to go to finish their 4,000-mile ride from Baltimore to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, said team member Jesse Richter.
The church has hosted the riders for at least five years and others in town had done so before, said Wiggins Town Council member Brad Weese, who greeted the team.
Richter just graduated Johns Hopkins University with a B.S. in civil engineering. Taking the long ride was something he had always wanted to do and it was the perfect thing to do before he started his career, he said.
His family has been touched by cancer. His grandfather had died before Richter was born, he said.
Team member Jessica Arms' family was also touched by the dreaded disease. A week before she set out, her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he had surgery two days later, she said.
Fortunately, it had not spread and he's doing well, Arms said.
Others in her family have also contracted cancer of some kind. One died and another fought it for years, she said.
Both of the riders said cancer is something that seems to affect almost everyone, either personally or through knowing someone who has had it.
On top of raising funds for cancer research, the ride is an adventure because not many people get to make such a tour.
“But the cause keeps you going," Richter said.
The 4K is definitely about the cause. Each team member has to raise at least $4,000 in pledges for the effort and major sponsors also chip in. This team raised more than $100,000, he said.
This is no Sunday ride with the kids.
"The first 10 days were rough, but it got easier," Richter said.
On the other hand, the riders do not have to be champion bike riders. Richter said he's a runner and plays rugby, but not a road cyclist. Arms said she's not a serious bike rider, either, but is fit as a cross country runner who has done triathlons and backpacked across Europe and South America.
Of course, the riders don't do it alone. The support staff drive vans that carry gear and are also there with water and food for lunch stops, Richter said.
"They're really pivotal," he said.
Candidates for the trip are interviewed in October and chosen in November each year. Then the teammates get together for training and to work as volunteers at the Hope Lodge, which is a place for families of cancer victims to stay while their loved ones are getting treatment, Richter said.
Most of the riders do not know each other, but it is amazing how they "click," he said.
The team tends to stay in churches along the route, but also stopped at the University of Illinois, Illinois College and some YMCA chapters, Richter said.
Richter was the leg leader for the middle third of the trip, which means he serves as the spokesman for the group. He also has to beg lunch from places along the way, he said.
"We've had a lot of McDonald’s," Richter said.
It was easy finding food in Nebraska, but the job will be harder as the group heads over the Rocky Mountains, through Estes Park and over Trail Ridge Road, and when they hit the desert — not to mention the grueling effort, he said
Nonetheless, the group was excited about a change of scenery, Richter said.
Arms said she's taking the trip because people often talk about the "bleakness in the world … but don't do a lot about it."
"This is a chance to do something," she said.
Arms stresses early detection.
"It saved my dad's life; it will save a lot of lives," she said. Also, diet and exercise can help. "Two-thirds of cancer is preventable."
A third of cancer cases are attributed to smoking and another third to diet, Arms said.
— Contact Dan Barker at email@example.com.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
The night we arrived to Wiggins we watched the sun set over the rocky mountains. We saw shadows of towering peaks in the distance as we all filled with excitement about conquering the mountains after Boulder. The next day, we departed Wiggins to embark on an 80 mile day into Boulder, where we would have a day off. My group started out spectacularly, three flat tires in a row within the first 5 miles, all mine. After falling about an hour behind the group, we got started again. We came to a large hill, and we all knew that upon reaching the top, the mountains would come into view. A few minutes later, we were speechless as we saw the snow covered peaks in the distance.
As the day progressed, the mountains got bigger and more detailed. The experience of cycling in 90 degree heat while staring at snowy mountains was unforgettable. As we approached Boulder, the heat got hotter and the mountains grew tremendously more towering. Thomas unfortunately had some van troubles and got stranded on the way.
From the rantings of past 4k riders, I had built a mental picture of Boulder, a hippie-ish place with outdoorsy stores lining the streets and a beautiful view of the mountains. I was not disappointed! Boulder is quite possibly one of the neatest places I have ever been. We stayed at a church just a few blocks away from Pearl Street, a street closed to traffic filled with live music, street performers, restaurants, and shops. Needless to say . . . the 4k riders did some damage to their wallets.
We heard about a reggae concert going on at night, and decided to check it out. We were told that the singers of the band had polio, and performed while supporting themselves with crutches on stage. The band was called Israel Vibration, and was absolutely incredible. We decided to “play the game” and bust out some psychedelic dance moves to fit the scene. Thats a more elaborate way to say we made complete fools of ourselves. Needless to say, the concert was extremely uplifting and made me think a lot about our own cause. Seeing these singers overcome their disease to do what they love, with such passion, reminded me of all the people we met at the hope lodge this semester, fighting their battles to get back to living their lives.
The morning round-up at the church took longer than usual, but we circled up outside and dedicated our rides. I'm sure it has been said before in a journal entry, but it seems like the one commonality all of America has is the impact of cancer and everyone's struggle to overcome the disease as best as they can. Everyone was also thankful for the warmness of our hosts and we set out on a 76 mile trip into Wiggins, CO.
The day was hot as we passed very arid areas of Colorado. It felt more like what we imagined Nevada and Utah would look like, not Colorado, the home of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains and the famous and mighty Colorado River. Our water stops were painfully shade-less and some of us didn't want to ride anymore.
As we neared Wiggins, a small thunderstorm loomed in the distance and we welcomed the shade of the clouds. As we approached it seemed to dissipate, but a large windstorm hit us. I have never seen tumble weed actually tumble before and seeing Taylor get smacked with a really large piece as I dodged others was hilarious. Our hosts were kind as always and the spaghetti sauce was delicious. We ended the day by watching the sun fade past the rockies as we anticipated what Boulder would bring.
This morning I dedicated my ride to Fern and Rachel, two lovely ladies I met when I and others helped make noodles at the senior center in Benkelman, NE. They were kind enough to show their support by venturing to the fundraising fair in honor of Rosemary the night before. Benkelman blew me away by their awesome generosity and ability to raise several thousand dollars to battle Cancer. I didn't want to leave such a lovely town. Even the send-off was made spectacular by an escort of three amazing brothers who cycled with us to the border.
Marked by a wooden sign the Colorado border was upon me sooner than I expected. It stood there in all its wooden glory embodying my notions of a rugged Colorado. The rest of the day, though, proceeded to shatter the rest of my preconceived notions of the state. Colorado was the home of the Rockies, so shouldn't it be full of endless trying hills from border-to-border? I thought so, but all I saw was a gorgeous sky meeting an endless expanse of flat ground.
Upon entering the town of Wray, a delicious meal awaited us at La Familia. The restaurant was kind enough to provide us with air-conditioning, ice tea, chips and as many burritos as we wanted. After finishing off the delicious meal with spoonfuls of honey, I was refreshed and ready to continue the journey onward. I wasn't in a hurry, though, and thoroughly enjoyed a conversation with a couple in the restaurant about Ride the Rockies, a bike trip through the Rockies that we missed by a week, and some attractions other than the Rockies themselves, such as a fishery at Stalker Pond.
In Yuma a surprise awaited us, the return of the home stays. I was adopted for the night by Dave and LuAnne who welcomed me and five other riders into their lovely home. When we drove there I was only expecting the glory of an actual bed with actual sheets, little did I know that even more exciting things awaited me. A little while later I found myself piloting a lawn mower that turned on a dime. The excitement didn't stop there. A blue tractor was at my disposal. When I embarked upon this trip I pondered what it would feel like to finally reach San Francisco knowing that I had just cycled across the country in an effort to fight cancer, what I didn't ponder was the thrill of riding a tractor. Yes, the tractor moved slowly, but you had a gigantic shovel at your disposal. To top it all off was a trip to the neighbors to see kittens and pigs. Needless to say I slept soundly at the end of the day. Having a beautiful gray tabby named Rowdy cuddling in the crook of my arm was just a tremendously welcome push into dreamland.
Yesterday we rode from Arapahoe to Benkelman. Wake-up call came too early given my comfortable bed at Karme and Anthony Fisher's; for the first time, I didn't wake up ready for the day. After saying goodbye to our generous hosts and eating a wonderful breakfast at the Methodist Church, we circled to dedicate our day. As I listened to each rider speak in honor or in memory of someone they had met who had been touched by cancer, I was rather suddenly struck by this trip and what we're experiencing along the road. As I've done the trip once before (in 2006), and being as we are half-way through this trip, it seemed strange that I'm only now coming to truly feel all aspects of what we're doing.
Spreading awareness about cancer, one tier of the 4K's mission, is something I understand on an academic level and believe in absolutely. I have always believed in the power of education, and given the number of cancer cases that are preventable, I hope our trip inspires people to be more mindful of their bodies and environments so as to reduce all controllable risk factors (e.g. tobacco use and obesity). This element of the trip was one of the first things which attracted me 2 years ago. Likewise, raising funds is an important part of what we do, and I think our contributions make a difference to the organizations to which we donate. Yesterday I began to have a deeper understanding for the more emotional aspect of the trip: fostering hope.
It started as a vague feeling while we were circled with members of the Arapahoe community. I was overwhelmed by an accumulation of stories and lives that had been shared with us. I thought about people I had met 2 years ago who were still struggling, as well as those who had since passed away. About 20mi outside of Benkelman we stopped for a wonderful lunch with Johnny and Nell Walker. Johnny hosted the 4K in 2006, as well, when his first wife, Rosemary, was struggling with an aggressive cancer. Again this year, Johnny invited us into his home and shared his life with us. Rosemary passed away in August, 2007; Johnny talked about his family, their struggle, her last days, and how he continues living and loving. He talked about being touched by a rider on the 2006 team who was himself a cancer survivor. The honesty and emotion of his story brought together all the emotions I had been feeling the last couple days, and I cried listening to him speak about his experiences. I was shaken by the love, pain, and hope in his message.
Arriving in Benkelman felt like coming home after having been away for a long time. It was one of my favorite stops in 2006, and I had been looking forward to seeing Chris and Carolyn, our hosts, this entire ride. Here is a small town that epitomizes what we experience across the country: limitless generosity. Chris and Carolyn invite us into their home every year, let us eat in their diner, and take time from their lives to provide for us during our day off. What's more, together with Crystal, Johnny and Rosemary's daughter, and others from the Benkelman community, they threw us a fantastic benefit picnic in the town park. There were festival games (like a dunk tank and bingo), a silent auction, food and drink, karaoke, and a dance. All proceeds went to the 4K, which this year totaled just over $2,000! Not even the early end to the evening caused by a violent thunder and hail storm could hamper our total enjoyment of the day.
Biking to Benkelman and throughout the day off, I thought about the 4K - our goals, our challenges, and ideas for improvement. It's easy for me to get discouraged; I always feel I could be doing more. When I get upset about all the little details, I hope I can remember the advice of a dear friend: “You're a human being, not a human doing.” This is about who we are, not what we do. At the beginning and end of long days, it's not about what we've done on the road, it's about who we've been, who we are, and how we interact with those around us. I believe we have a positive and lasting impact on the communities through which we pass, and days like those into Benkelman remind me of how important it is to keep reaching out to these places.
As we move from community to community, we encounter all types of people and personalities. Something that remains constant, however, is the generosity and openness of those we meet. Whether we're passing someone on our route, eating dinner with our hosts, or being taken into someone's home for the night, people treat us as though we're dear friends, not perfect strangers. They tell us stories of hardship, confide in us the experiences they've suffered, and share their hope for a better future. At the end of the day, they remind me of why I'm doing this again: this isn't about biking, it's about the people (riders and hosts) - their stories, their pain, their love, their hope. I'm told we inspire others with hope for the future and the next generation. Honestly, the people we meet inspire me with hope for the future. They show me that it's possible to love, to struggle, to hope, to hurt, and to continue in spite of everything.-Clare Blubaugh
Monday, June 23, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Send mail to:
United Methodist Church
Hopkins4K for Cancer - [Rider's Name]
307 Onagara Ave.
Paonia, CO 81428
Saturday, June 21, 2008
We arrived at the First Methodist Church early in the afternoon and were promptly lead into a small holding room where we were put up for adoption. For the first time this trip, various community members in Arapahoe graciously opened up their homes and provided small groups of riders with homestays. As expected, the lovely ladies were the first to find a new home for the night, while the smelly boys were left to grunt and mutter.
In an incredible string of events, a man and woman hiking across the country happened to knock on the door of one of the homestays and later found themselves at our dinner table. The pair are hiking 4,834 miles from Delaware to California. They hike under the name Hugs for Humanity and hope to give one million hugs and raise one million dollars for the Alzheimer's Association and Neurofibromatosis Inc. You can see read more about their trip at www.hugsforhumanity.com
I am a van driver, April is my name
Flat tires and injuries- I fix them all the same
In my little white car I save the 4k riders
With every distress call, my heart grows a little wider
I spend my days finding donations, putting food in hungry bellies
Make me angry and for you – eternal peanut butter and jellies
Thomas, Andrew and I scour the streets for any trouble
Sometimes my work is tiresome and I want to leave the 4k bubble
But I know no matter what hope will pull me through
The hope of those who are suffering – of every cancer patient I ever knew
With every mile every day each hot sun and stormy sky
I am happy to be a part of this and now I hope that you know why!
After much deliberation, I've come to the conclusion that my biographical thoughts can only be truly expressed through poetry.
For example, in haiku:
Van driver extraordinaire
How 'bout dem apples?
Or iambic pentameter:
Thomas, my name is, and I drive a van.
If asked, the team might say I am the man.
I stuff them full of apples every day.
And tell them jokes, so they can't stay away.
I bring them water and some tasty snacks.
When I am close, they know I have their backs.
I make them slather sunscreen on, you see,
With SPFs that keep them cancer-free.
I drive to honor my friend Caroline
Whose cancer came without much prior sign.
She's only twenty-four and, yet, so strong,
So thoughts of her keep pushing me along.
During my Senior year of high school, my brother, Greg, was a Freshman. This meant that I drove him to school each morning. At the time, NBC News did a story on our school, declaring it as having the earliest start time in New York State. I was up at six every morning; Greg was up by seven thirty-five. Many a late mornings I spent arguing with my brother as we broke all kinds of land speed records trying to at least make it in by second period.
Due to my apparently uncanny ability to not learn life lessons, I now find myself up at 5-6AM every morning, packing a van to the hilt and driving my brother and twenty-four other students to that proverbial school four-thousand miles away. This time, the start time is earlier, the commute longer, the load heavier and I'm glad I never learned my lesson. My name is Andrew Gotimer. Van driver. Documentarian.
I think my favorite part of today was the host dinner! After a refreshing shower we sat down to a delicious meal, and I was lucky enough to share the company of a couple awesome Franklin, Nebraska natives. Gary shared with me the story of his wife, who is a third generation colon cancer victim. She has also survived three recurrences, and just finished her last bought of chemotherapy five weeks ago. If that wasn’t awesome enough, she was busy up and helping with dinner all night! The hospitality we receive everywhere we go is truly incredible, and in this case the mutual kindness and hope is reciprocated on an even deeper level.
Pastor Neil was unable to join us due to his current heart condition, and I know I will keep him, and his recently deceased wife, and his five year old granddaughter, McKensie, who recently passed from a neuroblastoma, in my prayers.
Anna E.S. Johnston
The morning began with a delicious breakfast prepared by the Annunciation Catholic Church and was followed by the traditional group ride dedication. During our dedications, while others shared their stories, I remained silent with mine. Now, I have the pleasure of sharing it with you all. For my ride, I dedicated it to Sandy, my former college mentor, friend, and breast cancer survivor.
Today, for the first time, I rode with just the boys: Jesse, Tom, and Ben. I was a bit concerned in the beginning that I wouldn't be able to keep up with their pace but after the first water stop, I felt more comfortable riding with them. The first half of the ride was the last of scenic Kansas and its ups-and-downs on hills; and unfortunately, the sunshine. During the second half, we entered beautiful Nebraska but lightning, thunder, and heavy rain ended our ride. Luckily, we were able to take shelter under a friendly farmer's shed until we were able to be shuttled to our next host, the Grace Lutheran Church in Fairbury. Thank you to our hosts, Jack and Janice, for arranging transportation for us in the rain, for our showers, and our amazing community dinner. Sorry for the slight mistake on the back of our tee-shirts that says we're in Kansas instead of Nebraska!
I'm looking forward to exploring more of Nebraska tomorrow! Good night and sweet dreams! And don't worry, we're in super safe hands! And oh yeah, use that sunscreen!
Don't let the bed bugs bite,