The Last Post, or The Reason We Ride

It’s hard to believe that it’s over, it still doesn’t feel real.  I had that single moment of realization on the beach in Oregon, but now that feeling is gone, lost in the rolling gray surf, and once again its hard to imagine that we actually did ride our bikes across the country with nothing but our bikes, a stuffed backpack, and a single team van.  It’s crazy looking back at all the blogs that I have written over the past 2 months.  I read what I wrote about riding into DC in the pouring rain or getting lost on the way into Everett, PA, and its hard to believe that we were only a week into the trip at that time, it feels like those days were just last week.  I look back on this trip and see a lot of amazing things.  It’s amusing to think back to the start of the trip and realize how much I have learned, not only as a cyclist, but also about people and life.  I have met so many great people on this journey, and not only on our bike team, which was certainly not short of characters, but also just talking to people while stopped at stoplights and at rest stops, at national monuments and gas stations, and realizing that cancer affects so many people. Whether it was the older man I talked to on the way into Washington, whose father and brother had died from cancer, or the woman from Mt. Rushmore with the 8-year-old child who had been diagnosed with cancer within his first month of life, and was still fighting it, each person inspired me in their own way.  

I will never forget way I spent the last summer before I became an official adult.  I cannot forget; tornados in Wyoming, tiny bookstores, how sick we all got of bagels, the great prairie fire of Murdo, the cheers of Beaver High School, endless PBJs, ridiculous tan lines, the Kanji game, standing around every morning waiting to leave, looking at the stars at 4AM in Yellowstone, letters to Matilda, I4K T-Rex, going down mountains at 50+ mph, Pannekoeken, hose showers, listening to cancer survivors tell their stories, and great friends.  I will never again take for granted; a good place to sleep, being able to eat whatever and whenever I want, warm showers on cold days, and not growing up on a farm.  For better or for worse, we lived together for 65 days and annoyed each other, laughed together, yelled at animals, sometimes yelled at each other, and by the end of the trip, I was ready to be home, but also didn’t want it to end, which I think is a true sign of how this trip brings people together.  I came into this trip very much on my own, meaning that I didn’t know much of anything about biking, didn’t know anyone who biked, and didn’t know a single person who would be joining me on this trip, but now I feel like I have my very own western family, like I have known all of these riders for years.  I’m gonna miss you guys.

Thank you to everyone who supported me, I hope my thank you notes have reached all who donated, and please know that I was totally overwhelmed by the amount of support I got from all my friends and family.  In the end, I ended up raising over $5,000, and we raised $64,000 as a team, which I think is pretty amazing for 20 poor college kids who aren’t working for a summer.

If you are a younger kid following along, you should definitely try to do this, its  an amazing experience, it will allow you to push yourself to limits you didn’t know you could reach, you will make 20 new friends, and you will never get a chance to see the entire country like this again.  To everyone else, let this be a reminder that you too can make an impact.  While I was on this trip, one of my aunts was diagnosed with cancer, one of my mom’s co-workers had a son die from cancer, a good friend from high school lost a mother to cancer, and a friend from college contacted me to tell me that his mother was also battling cancer and recently had a lung removed.  This trip was started 3 years ago as a project from the minds of two U of I students, and now we are raising incredible amounts of money and carrying on the tradition.  All you need to do is have an idea and you can change people’s lives.  As we have been reminded, if this trip convinces one person to test themselves for cancer, if we can raise enough money to allow researchers to make a breakthrough, if we can save even one life, then this trip is more than worth it.  That is what makes this journey worth it.  That is the reason we ride.

Thank you all so much. Please direct questions and comments to jkrantzler@gmail.com.  Final pics are up at http://www.flickr.com/photos/8300819@N03/

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