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,
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
According to a recent study by a group of bored physicists, the state of Kansas is actually flatter than a pancake. If someone had a griddle large enough to make a pancake the area of the Sunflower State, then it would have more topographical variation. This pointless studying not withstanding, there are a lot of hills between Paola and Lawrence. Beautiful rolling hills past picturesque lakes, green farms, and other bucolic delights, but hills all the same.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Attn: Hopkins4K - (Rider's Name)
1309 A Street
Benkleman, NE 69021
Last night Katie came up with the idea of telling everyone the day was going to be longer than it really was (it was actually 61) so they would bike faster and we would get into the host sooner. Our ploy had the team going for the first 52 miles until they all passed a sign that said “Sweet Springs 9 miles.” Acting quickly on his feet Andrew told everyone that while Sweet Springs was only 9 miles away our host was actually 30 miles from the city limits.
The prank came to an end when at lunch we started dumping buckets of water on people and not letting anyone leave the stop. It became rather apparent that the host was in fact less than a mile away. We were all able to get into the host by 2 PM thanks to Katie’s plan, and we were able to enjoy the afternoon at the Sweet Springs Community Pool.
After going to the pool we were treated to a pizza dinner by Pastor Tim and the Sweet Springs Wesley United Methodist Church. The Methodist Church’s hospitality was truly generous and has extended through our day off.
For the day off the team woke up to do laundry and came back to a pasta lunch provided by the church. During the afternoon people took care of postcard writing, card playing, reading and napping. The day off provided a great time for riders to relax and prepare for our long day into Paola, KS tomorrow.
For dinner we were treated to a community BBQ which had to be moved indoors due to weather, after the BBQ we had our second Pow-Pow of the trip to mark the end of the first third.
I passed on the leg leader responsibilities to Jesse and no longer have to wake people up in the morning (something that everyone is happy about)
Friday, June 13, 2008
Today began with a wake up at around 5am - not from loud music, but from thunder, rain and lightning outside. Unfortunately, the terrible weather continued throughout the day, keeping us bike riders stuck in Montgomery City. Our hosts were great, bringing us food throughout the morning and afternoon, and even playing board games with us.
Around 3pm, we finally started the shuttling process to Fayette, MO, stuffing as many bags, bikes, and bikers into the vans as possible. It took two trips, but everyone finally made it in (clean and dry) to Fayette.
We were all bummed that we didn't get to bike at all today, but our spirits (and stomachs) were uplifted when we saw what can only be described as an endless variety and quantity of food our hosts provided for dinner. It was delicious, and I think all other meals might pale in comparison.
The weather for tomorrow's ride in Sweet Springs for an (official) day off seems good, and we are all excited to get back on the bikes.
4K bike camp is (insert adjective)
the food has been (superlative).
we even had (fast food) for breakfast! You guys NEVER let me do that! I think I'm gonna trade you in for different parents next chance I get. My counselors (directors' and leg leaders' names) are really awesome. I think I want them as parents. But they also wake me up really early, with terrible music... I guess maybe I'll keep you guys.
Anyway, today we woke up in (name of town), ate breakfast very early, and then got on our bikes and started pedaling. I rode with my friends (names 1 through 5), who are really (adjective), and were very supportive. We had a pretty (gerund) day, with (number) flat tire(s), and a big tear in another one. Just when we were all ready to give up, a gas station saved us with (drink). The weather was extremely (adjective), but don't worry, I put sun screen on (number) times today, just like you said.
We didn't end up making it into (name of town 104 miles away from last town), and had to get shuttled by our excellent drivers (names of drivers 1-3), which really made us (emotion). But I think we are all learning valuable lessons about how much more there is to this trip than just the bike ride.
Ok, that's about all for now. I'll write again in (number) days. Say hi to (dog name) for me.
In the past few days our group has had its share of adventures and tests – flat tires, broken bikes, spills, tornadoes, and flooded roads. So this morning was difficult for many who wanted nothing more than to pretend that Greg's 6 AM knock on the door was an illusion and roll back over to sleep for another few hours.
A century – 100 miles – awaited us as we reluctantly hopped out of our beds (yes, you heard me, beds!) at Illinois College. As we road out of the college and off with the promise that we would at one point pass into the state of Missouri, spirits were surprisingly high. When there are 100 miles of road ahead of you, a few miles here and there don't seem like a big deal. And so as we took an unexpected “detour” out of the College, the usual chatter continued between riders and groups as many pondered what the day would hold. Chris was probably wondering what tall object he would find to climb (it ended up being a goal post), Allison was probably still wondering what the answer to Dan's daily trivia question was, and Ankit was probably just wondering. I don't think any of us felt those extra miles we road trying to find our way out of Jacksonville until around mile 90 when we found ourselves in St. Louis and lost once again.
The events of the day included a couple of flat tires, most of which were fixed by Ondrej, story time with Papa Ankit at the lunch stop, and a few ridiculous pranks along the way. We may have started and ended our day lost and confused but changes in directions, discrepancies in street names, and less that accurate mileage markers have become commonplace on the 4K.
With the help of John, a fellow cyclist clad in yellow and a St. Louis tourer who went miles out of his way to guide our group to our destination, we eventually made it. The day had been long and eventful – most of us were riding for a full 12 hours. Thinking back to the moment I first got a glimpse of the Mississippi River late that afternoon, I remember the shouts and hollars of my team mates as we struggled up steep hills our Midwestern legs hadn't felt in days. We may not always find the right road but there's comfort in knowing that we're all riding together. Truth be told at the end of a 100 mile day or a 40 mile one, there isn't another group of 27 people I'd rather be lost with.
We finally departed around 9am, even with some dark clouds in the sky. My team of Chris, James, Jess, Ben, and I decided to be Team Barnyard, each of us intimidating a barn yard animal for the entire day. Apparently I do a pretty mean cow, so I found myself mooing at every pasture we passed. With the heavy rain over the past few days, we passed a few flooded areas, including a soccer field with only the top of the goals and the scoreboard visible. One of the roads we had planned to take was flooded out, sending us on a short detour. Overall, however, the day was easy, with sweeping fields and picturesque skies. The sounds of animals (from the team, not the fields) also helped pass the time.
Near the end of the day, we passed a major milestone – we came across a sign marking 90 degrees longitude, which is one-fourth the way west around the world. It was really cool, especially because we are also about a fourth the way through our journey across the country.
We rode as a team into Jacksonville, where a large group of supporters at Illinois College came out to greet us with cheers, food, and t-shirts. The campus is beautiful, our hosts are gracious, and it was great to sleep in real beds again. We head into St. Louis tomorrow, signifying our passage into the west – we can’t wait!
Monday, June 9, 2008
Students from Hopkins involved in fundraising campaign for cancer patients
By Elizabeth Hogge
MICHIGAN CITY - Students from The Johns Hopkins University are in town for their fifth visit, staying at Barker Hall on Franklin Street.
The group is making their way from Baltimore to San Francisco for the Johns Hopkins 4K For Cancer, hoping to raise $60,000 for the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge. Hope Lodge is a residence for cancer patients seeking medical attention at Baltimore hospitals.
The group anticipates crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on July 31 to end the 4,000-mile ride.
"It's been going good so far; we feel as though we've been biking so long, but we have a long way to go," first-time ride participant Daniel Ingram said.
"It's been a different experience every day, every community is unique. Everywhere we go we meet survivors, and this is a way for us to go through the country and to see the reason that we ride."
Johns Hopkins student Ben Margolis added, "this has been an amazing experience, we've been meeting great people and hearing inspiring stories. That's what it's all about."
Mayor Chuck Oberlie welcomed the group as they gathered in front of Trinity Church, proclaiming June 4th "Johns Hopkins 4K For Cancer Day." He commended the group, saying that "making a huge statement by taking part in an effort like this is a wonderful thing."
The students participated in a fundraising ride from Barker Hall to Washington Park led by Michigan City School Board President Clyde Zeek. Students from around the school corporation were invited to donate $1 and ride alongside the college students, also entering them into a drawing for a new bicycle from The Bike Stop.
Springfield Elemetary student Ry Hook, 10, said that he was excited to take part in the ride.
Our day started out like any other. We work up around 5:40 and got ready to bike. We were warned that we would have to bike 110 miles in windy conditions, but the warning did not prepare us for what lay ahead. I had the pleasure of biking with Clare, Sarah, Alison, and Amy. The five of us quickly decided to name our team Spice Girls and each of us received a nickname of one of the five members of the band. We spent the first five to ten miles singing songs and quizzing each other on different trivia facts. The time flew by and before we knew it we were at our first water stop. We relaxed, hydrated, and then returned to the road.
The winds had picked up significantly and we soon found ourselves biking against 30 to 35 mile per hour winds. Four of us are inexperienced riders and quickly were forced to learn how to pace line or face the consequence of being pushed backwards by the winds. About five miles after the water stop, I found myself out of breath and tired! My muscles ached and I was covered in a thin layer of dirt. I didn't understand why I was so tired! The road was perfectly flat- there was not one degree of elevation change. Despite the flat lands, I could not go faster than 8 miles per hour. Just as I was about to give up, I thought about my dad's words of advice “watch out for the invisible hills.” It was now that I realized what he meant. It is when the head-winds can be so strong that you feel like you are forever biking uphill!
We quickly discovered that we would be unable to bike the whole 110 miles in 30 miles per hour winds. Our leaders devised a plan in which each group would be shuttled 30 miles of the route. My group was the second group to be shuttled. After being driven, we were about 25 miles outside of Clinton (our destination for the evening). Each member of my group looked at each other as we stepped out of the van. None of us wanted to continue. We were tired. We were in pain. Yet our drive to finish was greater than our aching muscles and droopy eyes. And so we climbed back on to our bikes and increased our pace. To keep each other motivated we debated whether biking is good because you have to think or whether biking is bad because you have time to think. We came to a 2-2 split decision with Alison abstaining from our vote.
Before we knew it we past a road sign “18 miles till Clinton.” It was then that our true motivation set in. Together we pushed through those 18 miles and entered the town of Clinton. We joked that seeing the sign for Clinton was as significant as entering a new state- we were that happy. We pulled over into the first gas station to refill our water bottles. Just as we stopped, Clare received a call saying that the team would be shuttled to the school. We decided that we would finish the trip- on our bikes- making us the only the team to bike to the high school.
The last few miles to the school may have been the easiest all day...Physically the biking wasn't easy. The winds were still extremely strong and the temperature was still just over 100 degrees. And yet, I found biking enjoyable. Through the wind and sun we had done something incredible: together, as a team, we laughed, we talked, and we motivated our way to the end...as a team!
The day started a little slow. Some of us (me) had to grab our clothes out the dryer from the night before. Wow, the washing machine stuff was clutch. The packing took a little longer today than usual. I had to take care of all of the care packages I received (thanks rents!), which meant that my suitcase bulged even more than usual and I had to lug an extra couple pounds of fruit snacks and granola bars.
We had the typical healthy 4K breakfast of deep-dish pizza, pad thai, and Jamba Juice. After blocking traffic with our morning circle, we took off through the most interesting parts of Chicago. I was surprised to find that all of a sudden every single sign was in Spanish (I should learn that) and then that we were biking through Midway. For a second I thought the 4K was a huge joke, and that nobody had ever actually biked across the country, you just biked to Midway, hopped a plane to San Fran, and then photoshopped yourself into pictures of the Midwest and the Rockies.
The first water stop was where today REALLY started to get fun. We had a slight change in the directions...which apparently very few of us were actually able to follow. A few groups were able to make the right turns, but my group somehow ended up on a 5 mile long detour. My group (btw it was Meg, Taylor, Amy, and MoMo) valiantly fought on to the last water stop...to find that the directions had changed again. So, we started on the road again, got lost again, then found ourselves...again...and biked down Center Rd. about 30 miles from our destination.
We got the call that there were going to be tornadoes in the area. Nobody was worried. We had been in “tornado” warnings before, and we got drizzled on and that was about it. But we pulled off the side of the road and waited to get shuttled. Just in case, we took shelter in the garage of “Jim.”
Jim was a really nice guy with a really bad cigar. He fed pheasants and killed coyotes. He also had some first-hand experience with tornadoes (two in Illinois and one in Wisconsin), so we felt safe with him. Its a good thing we did too, because very soon the sky went black/green, the cloud ceiling fell, and those fast moving clouds overhead actually started to swirl. No joke, I have it on video.
Jim told us what a tornado would sound like (a freight train) and where we would run if we had to (under his house). I was watching the cloud line across the field behind his house and started talking to him about how fast the tornado would form and touch down. He had basically just finished telling me how it would happen incredibly quickly when we actually saw a funnel cloud form. It was a few miles away, and small, but it was certainly there. It formed and then disintegrated. Other groups got to see the big one that really caused some damage while stuck in a barn. I guess thats cool too.
When we finally arrived at the YMCA, Dan flashed the sheet of paper that he used to try to track all of us down. There was chicken scratch all over the thing. What a logistical nightmare. I can only imagine how difficult it was for the church people and the 4K leaders to find us spread out all over these random roads.
Also Ben just stepped on Ankit. Oh, the 4k hi-jinx.
And the barn bikes just got here. Always something happening to keep things interesting. GO TEAM TORNADO!
The morning began with a breakfast in the top floor of a century old episcopal church in Michigan City, IN. After breakfast, we packed our bags and circled up to begin our ride into Chicago. The ride today was different than most days in that we rode together as an entire team rather than in smaller groups. We also used primarily bike trails rather than streets. Our ride started out through Michigan City's famed Indiana Dunes National Seashore. The forested bike path leading into the dunes provided us with an incredible view of the lakeshore and the five story high sand dunes that line the lake side. It reminded me of how my family took trips out there every summer when I was a child.
Our ride into the city also brought back a lot of nostalgic feelings. As a former resident of the south side of Chicago, we rode through the diverse neighborhoods that make up south Chicago. The weather was incredibly hot and humid, our arms and legs were covered with white cotton-like seeds that were blowing through the air like snow. In spite of these conditions, spirits were high as the residents of Chicago began to root us on, honking in their cars and cheering on the sidewalks. We eventually reached a point in the road where the path to Chicago seemed uncertain. Because of my expertise of the city, I was asked to lead the group toward the right path. With chants of “Hubie!” raining down, I navigated my bike to the left and we were on the lakeshore bike path headed towards the Loop. I'd like to think that it was my expertise of the city that saved the day, but in reality, it was really my ability to turn left that made everything possible.
As we traversed toward the increasingly visible skyline along the lake, our group stopped a number of times to take pictures. I took a picture of my old dormitory and texted it to my freshman year roommate. This leg ended on Chicago's West side on the University of Illinois-Chicago campus where we were staying for the night. Being home was a much needed break, but ultimately it is just a short stop on our journey across the country.
Today rode from Elkhart to Michigan City, which, quite confusingly, is in Indiana but is so named as it borders Lake Michigan. We left relatively early in the morning and got to our host (a beautiful Episcopal church) by 2 pm. Since our lunch had been donated by McDonalds, Amy and I (the two herbivores on the trip) dragged our starving selves to a restaurant across the street. The hostess, Megan, was nice enough to let us into her upscale restaurant even though we clearly did not belong there in our smelly spandex. While we waited for our food she told us about one of her close friends who is suffering from cancer and has undergone various experimental treatments with painful side effects. Another proof of the omnipresence of this disease.
After lunch, and 40 hilarious minutes of watching half the team play a loud game of samurai outside the church, we got back on our bikes (yes, I whined about it) for a 2 mile ride by the lake shore. It was part of an event organized by the Michigan City School System and supported by the Mayor of Michigan City. As if it weren't enough that the Mayor had taken the time and effort to personally address us and praise our cause, he also declared 4th June, 2008 the Official Hopkins 4K for Cancer Appreciation Day. Not helping our ever-inflating egos!
The organizers of the bike ride had a raffle ticket drawing to give out prizes like a skateboard and a shiny new red bike to the participants. We were all hoping that the bike would go to this one boy who had come out to ride with us on a bike borrowed from his neighbor (which happened to be purple and had a big basket with flowers on it...needless to say, totally unsuitable for a cool kid like him). Although he did not actually win, the participant who won willingly handed it over to him. It was amazing. It was like one of those perfect stories out of a Chicken Soup for the Soul book and is definitely up there on my list of favorite 4K moments.
All this happiness had left us starving (which seems to be a constant part of you when you are riding a bike for 7 hours a day). Thank God for Jean, a wonderful lady who cooked us a great dinner (complete with ice cream sundaes). I learned the next morning that Jean had lost her daughter to cancer, which made me appreciate her generosity even more and reinforced life lesson #1.
We decided that our day in Michigan City would be incomplete without a swim in Lake Michigan. The entire team made their way over to the shore where we had biked earlier, hung out on the beach and watched the gorgeous sunset. It felt really strange to think that most of us have known each other less than two weeks and yet it is hard to remember how life was pre-4K. Once it got a little darker, Jess, Ondrej, Chris and Dan brought out the fireworks (legal in Indiana) that Ondrej and my team (Team “Super Fun, Number One”, just for the record) had picked up on the way into the city. Our soiree was cut short by really loud sirens which we confused for police sirens. We were convinced we were going to get arrested on Hopkins 4K for Cancer Appreciation Day. Thankfully, it turned out that it was just a false tornado warning.
Another day on the 4K, another set of crazy adventures!
Friday, June 6, 2008
Captions, more photos, news articles, and of course more journal entries are still on the way. Thanks again to everyone for their support!
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
I woke up to the sound of what I thought was a car passing by, only to realize that one of my fellow riders (and temporary roommate) was snoring away next to me. Sleep is precious when you have to bike 100 miles the next day so I decided not to lose any over Taylor's 9th symphony. As I moved to the room next door so did the other riders who were trying to get some sleep.
An hour later we all had a wake up call to Madonna's new single and a mix of our own grunts, ready to take on our ride across three states in one day! As all the riders indulged in a breakfast consisting of fresh bagels, homemade muffins, and delicious French toast made by our great hosts at Fayette, Ohio, we packed and began our ride west on route 120 towards Indiana.
Along with me were riders Alison, Meg, and Katie. As we biked out of Ohio and went in and out of Michigan to reach the Indiana state line, we were welcomed into a country side that many of us had never seen before. Being close to New York City as I now live in Paramus, NJ, I was never in an environment that has more livestock than people. It was a new atmosphere that I greatly enjoyed.
As we continued riding after our first water stop, Meg kept our team updated with her phone about the latest weather reports which were not sounding too good. “This is us,” pointing to a small dot on the map, “and this is the storm.” It was a massive green blob moving from the west and going straight through Chicago to meet us very soon.
As we met everyone for lunch under a pavilion a couple miles into Indiana, it began to pour, making us have to decide if we should go any further. Because of constant thunderstorm and tornado warnings we decided to shuttle to our gracious hosts in Elkhart, Indiana making our day's trip 30 miles shorter.
Although we ride rain or shine, our safety always comes first. It is very comforting knowing that no matter what there will always be 27 other people with you who care for you like family. After all, following months of time with each other—from the team huddles to the snoring—we have become one big happy family.
-Mohammad “MoMo” Modarres
This morning was a journey down memory lane to early middle school mornings. There was the 6 am wake up and getting dressed in a zombie like trance. We journeyed down to the cafeteria and were met by the one thing that truly motivates the stumbling out of bed: food. As usual there was the slew of cereal selections but today our wonderful hosts at Jackson Middle School provided us with something special. At first I thought we were being served corn-dogs, but I soon found out what was before my eyes (and quickly on my plate) were pancakes wrapped around a breakfast sausage. As I consumed this pancake on a stick I talked with the middle schoolers about the trials and tribulations of finals. One never stops disliking tests.
Right before we departed a girl timidly approached me with a request. She hoped I would dedicate my ride to TJ and Joy. I gladly agreed for although I will never meet these individuals they are obviously greatly loved. They were in my thoughts as I tackled this 98.8 mile day.
98.8 miles on the flattest day of the trip provide plenty of time to ponder tough questions such as whether or not the chicken or egg came first. I concluded that the egg did, but I am willing to still debate the issue on another long cycling day. Although, the day was obviously long I felt it was one of the best. Perhaps I am glutton for drudgery, but honestly my day was a blast. There were intense games of 'I Spy' and 'Categories,' the consuming of delicious local ice cream guilt-free (I did after all cycle all day) and the best part, the gracious welcoming faces at Fayette Christian Church.
At the end of the day it is not about the aching legs that have been repeatedly peddling all day, but about the people we meet who welcome us with smiles, laughter, delicious dinners and showers. Though I have to admit hitting a runner's like high around 90 miles did help.
Endorphines are amazing.
experienced earlier in the trip.
We unpacked our belongings for our stay at Jackson Middle School in Sandusky, Ohio. We were generously provided lunch and dinner, lasagna that could be heated up later for consumption, by the school principal Scott Matheny. Rob and JoAnne Freeman had traveled 2 hours, all the way from Livonia, Michigan, to meet us in Sandusky to talk with us. They had stayed at the Baltimore Hope Lodge for a few weeks while JoAnne received treatment for cancer of the appendix. Due to the expendable nature of the appendix, it would seem like an easy cancer to treat. However, it had spread to many of her vital organs and she had to get extensive surgery performed to remove the cancer. JoAnne and Rob seemed to be in good spirits and determined to win their battle with cancer.
Since we had finished quite early in the day the team was presented with a few wonderful options; visit Cedar Point, one of the best roller coaster amusement parks in the world, head to the largest indoor water park in the country, or relax and enjoy the Lake Erie coast. Everyone had a fabulous day and seemed pleased with their choice.
My choice, and about 12 other team members, was Cedar Point. We had an incredible day of running, dancing, and skipping to every terrifying ride possible, cheering and screaming along the way. We were even able to instigate the wave and the slow clap on a few roller coasters.
After hitting virtually every major ride, and thoroughly embarrassing and nauseating ourselves, it was time for dinner and we returned to Jackson Middle School. Tired but content, we ate and geared up for the next long day that awaited us. If you ever find yourself in Sandusky, I highly recommend checking out Cedar Point; it rocked my world.
I never thought that sleeping passed 6 am would be considered a luxury, but the 4K has already changed my perspective on many things. Today was a short day and sleeping until 10 am was delicious. We biked from Cleveland to Vermilion. In case you were wondering why it is called Vermilion, we passed a sign that said it is named after the clay that the Indians used to make pait.
The ride was one of the easiest days so far, only 45 miles, but the wind was surprisingly strong and made it more difficult to pedal. This morning, my group, Team We Know How to Work It (named for Judy and Yogeeta's ability to get free Quiznos) biked by the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame to admire the outside, which is shaped like a record player and the construction of which was actually managed by Anna's dad Al Johnston, who we were sad to say goodbye to today. After biking through Cleveland, we made it to a beautiful pier over Lake Erie. The waves were beautiful and it was very peaceful to watch the shadows of the clouds moving over the lake.
Upon arriving to Vermilion, we had a wonderful lunch/dinner donated by Mrs. Johnston. The homemade granola bars were a highlight. We ate outside the football field of Relay for Life at Vermilion High School. For those who don't know what Relay for Life is, it is an American Cancer Society event that is held at locations across the country which lasts all night. During Relay, one person from each team walks around the track at all times. It is a wonderful event that honors those who have been lost to cancer as well as those who have survived. At each Relay, there is a contest of Miss Relay, which is basically a drag contest judged based on the amount of money each drag queen is able to raise. I rooted for Matilda.
Tonight we will be camping out at Relay so we are covered in bug spray and ready to have a fun time. Good night all!
The Westminster Presbyterian send-off went like many others, but we had the benefit of knowing that the 4k made it onto local TV News and the newspaper the day before. Throughout the day many riders mentioned they talked with people who saw us on the news! A bus full of high school baseball players even said they saw us the night before. What a feeling knowing that we are actually noticed in the communities we cycle through. I personally feel that it is one of the biggest missions of the 4K during the summer, to be noticed! Maybe one person saw the story and will contact us, or the ACS for the cancer screenings.
The ride throughout the day was pretty standard as we pushed on to Cleveland. We were all pretty excited to meet up at the end of the day as we knew we would caravan into the city for the last 10 miles or so. A caravan is when the entire group bikes in together, with support vans on either side. The caravan was fun as we definitely got noticed by a lot of the people around as we screamed “Where are we going?... San Fransisco!” along the way.
We spent the night at Case Western Reserve University. The 4K has stopped here before, so they put together a welcome sign for us. It was nice to get to sleep in a REAL bed for once. What a luxury. We celebrated the night away as we knew it would be Chris, Katie and Mr. Al's (Anna's dad's) last day with us. What a help they have been in the first week with tips and just being fun and friendly to be around. The three of them were replaced by Greg, who joins the 4K after a baseball championship tournament.