Days 5-10?

I can’t really keep track of what day of the trip it is anymore, but I know it’s been a while since I’ve had internet access!  In that time, we’ve traveled from Baltimore to Washington D.C., had a rest day there, then to Boonsboro, MD, Everett, PA, Mt. Pleasent, PA, and now we’re in a suburb of Pittsburgh. 

Our rest day in D.C. was much needed for physical rest as well as the inspiration we had from a visit to the Breast Cancer Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  There we had a tour, a discussion with Dr. Shriver, and we talked to Jan, a 70 year old U of I alum who went in that day for chemotherapy.  It was interesting, sad, and inspiring to hear about some statistics regarding breast cancer diagnoses, treatment, access to treatment, costs, the emotional response of one patient, and much more.  A couple things really stood out to me, including how inaccurate mammograms are and how expensive cancer treatment is.  I was also struck by how positive Jan was after 6 and a half years of suffering from breast cancer.  She said the most important part of getting through the past 6 and a half years has been having her husband’s support the entire time.  She mentioned that many people go through cancer treatment alone and she doesn’t know how they do it.  This made me think about how important the support of others is, not just in dealing with cancer but in every situation.  Whether it be a significant other, family, friends, or teammates, support from those people is crucial in so many personal obstacles.  I know that none of us on this trip could do it alone.  It wouldn’t be possible.  But by supporting each other and with the support of so many people outside our team, we are going strong. 

Another striking part of our visit was the genuine admiration and appreciation we received for what we’re doing.  Everyone at the hospital was very gracious and applauded our efforts.  Most of the time, we are so concerned about biking, tuning our bikes, reaching our destination, eating well and sleeping well, that our purpose seems to be forgotten or at least detached from our ride.  It was incredible to receive positive reinforcement and know that people do care.  This was reinforced an hour later, while on the train back from Walter Reed, a woman sitting behind me asked what our shirts were for and I told her what we were doing.  She was very impressed and interested, and when I mentioned our cause, she immediately donated $200 without a question.  Her sister died from cancer 4 years ago and she believed we would help save someone else’s sister.

The past few days since D.C. have been extremely challenging.  We’ve faced hills much bigger than before and have hit the Appalachian mountains.  We’ve also faced rain and wind while struggling with these hills.  Riding uphill is very difficult, and some of the climbs we’ve done recently seem to never end.  Once we reach the top, most people on the team are happy to fly downhill, but this is when fear kicks in for me.  I’m still not very comfortable flying downhill with cars and trucks whizzing by and sharp curves.  The rain and wind yesterday added to this challenge as it was harder to break, harder to stay in a straight line, and hard to see.  Somehow I’ve made it this far successfully, with the help of Nick and Jon who seem content with sticking with me in the last group.  I think I’ve become a little more comfortable with speeding down hills as compared to the first few days of the ride, but it is still a challenge for me.  Although the views are beautiful here, I’m excited to reach the flat, boring midwest.

Today we had a short 25 mile ride and at the end of it, my bike wouldn’t shift gears.  It seems to be hard to fix so I may have to wait until tomorrow and find a bike shop as none are open now.  It’s nice to have the afternoon off and rest my legs.  Hopefully my bike will be in good shape again soon.

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