72 Days, 4000 Miles, 8 Million Memories

Hello again! As promised here is my ride wrap-up, something that I’ve been putting off in part because writing this brings to reality the fact that the ride is indeed over. L It’s been exactly two weeks since I said goodbye to my Illini 4000 teammates in Seattle, 14 days that have seemed like months and years as I miss so much. For 72 days they were my family, our daily destination my home and we got up each morning and rode our bicycles. It may sound strange to say I feel homesick but then maybe that makes sense after spending 72 days with such an amazing group of people! Disconnected from the so called real world for sometimes days at a time it didn’t matter the day of the week or what the weather might be, braving the elements we got on our bikes and pushed through it together.

 

Since returning home I’ve often been asked the ever so popular question “How was your summer?” Impossible to sum up in just a few words I often find myself at a loss for words and reply amazing or awesome neither of which justify just how incredible the experience really was.

 

Starting in Central Park that chilly May morning with the Atlantic Ocean to our east we got on our bikes and pedaled through cities and over mountains, on back roads and highways. We laughed and cried and laughed some more growing as a team with each passing day. While I was reminded of the reason in which I was riding every day as I put on my (ever so wonderfully smelling) I4K jersey, it was the people we met who grabbed our hearts with their stories and brightened our days with their kindness and enthusiasm that made the hard days so much easier. There were days where the climbs seemed to last forever. Days where a lack of sleep and aching legs made me want to stop to nap or walk, but onward we went; rejuvenated by the thoughts of those we met affected by cancer, the sight of tippy hill signs and the sound of a teammate whistling or singing a silly song to take our mind off the task at hand. From the busy city streets of New York City, Philadelphia and D.C. to the rolling green hills of South Dakota. Over the Big Horns and Rockies, westward to the Pacific and up to Seattle, it wasn’t always easy but it was an amazing summer and one I’ll never forget.

 

I realize that not everyone has the luxury or means of taking 72 days to cycle across the country and hope that through our stories, photos, videos and blogs we were able to share our journey with those following along from near and a far. The support of so many people made the ride what it was and to them all I can say is thank you. From family, friends and alumni to generous strangers who so kindly opened their homes, places of worship and schools to provide for us, giving us food and donating however they could to the cause for which we ride, thank you – you’re amazing!

 

It was an amazing 72 days, filled with memories that will last a lifetime with friends I will never forget. I can’t even begin to list all the memories from this summer but I’m reminded of them each day in some way or another. Onions will never be the same, as I learned this summer that they are much more than a vegetable you grow in the garden. Sixth grade boys may not be able to cross state boundaries but with their moms permission can lead you in the right direction when you get lost. It’s amazing how a 120 mile day on the cue sheet can be shortened to 80, thanks to one special rider playing a joke on their teammates! Bugs CAN find your ear canal when riding down the road, however thankfully come out with a few drops of water! From using plastic bags as rain jackets to eating blackberries off the side of the road, cold nights in Yellowstone to the mosquitoes of Wisdom, Montana. Ice cream circles, fiestas and mustache Montana. Christmas in July, Panera Bread, warm springs the list goes on forever!

 

We talked with numerous people touched by cancer this summer whether it was while touring hospital oncology units, sitting down in Portrait Project interviews or attending Relay for Life or the Northwest Cancer Summit! Together these experiences provided us with a small glimpse at the lives of those which cancer has touched, with people telling us their stories of struggle and hope. The ride may now be over with everyone having gone their own ways, but the cause is still there and I know that as long as it is The Illini 4000 will continue to do its part in the fight. I’ve been asked numerous times to compare this summer’s ride to last and while I could I’m not sure that would be fair as while both were similar they were also quite different. Like an infant in its first year of life the Illini 4000 has grown by leaps and bounds in the last year, learning through experience to build toward a future that looks quite bright.

 

Looking back on the summer I have to say that this might be the most amazing team I’ve ever been a part of and I’m truly proud to have been a member of it.

 

I4K 2K8’ers I miss you! Thanks for the memories!

~Sandy

 

Comments are closed.