Port Land and the adventures of the West

Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the lack of personal blogging. It’s just something about this section of our route that makes blogging difficult. Much of it can be blamed on our consistent lack of internet access, or increased amount of camping out west, or pure exhaustion at the end of the day. I think part of it is the fact that it is so hard to put what we’re experiencing into words. Anything I write seems empty compared to what I’ve seen and felt since my last post.

I last wrote before riding up the Big Horn mountains, a particularly hard 18-mile climb way back in Wyoming. Once again the I4k came and conquered the mountains and pushed on through the Rockies as we passed through Montana and then Idaho. As much as I loved the scenery in the eastern half of our country, the west surely blows it out of the water as far as expansive beauty. We have seen so many amazing mountains, fields of grain, plains as far as the eye can see. And the people out here have been just as generous as what we experienced in the east. Countless individuals made our stay in the west a very pleasant experience, many thanks go out to you. It was such a joy for me to meet some of the people that helped us out last year again this year. I feel very fortunate to have made these connections with inspiring individuals across the country, and especially to have the opportunity to meet them again. The small towns we pass through will forever have a special place in my heart because of the hospitality we have been shown.

The weather out west has been a variety of conditions. Everyday has been hot by at least midday. The mornings may start out cool, but by the time the sun is overhead I’m always down to my coolest riding clothes. We had a few days when we knew the weather was reaching into the mid 90′s so I rode with teammates who were willing to ride hard to beat the heat on those days. Everyone seems to have different strategies for those days, some prefer to take it easier throughout the day to stay cool, but I felt it sure was nice to arrive before the hottest part of the day. The weather yesterday as I’m sure you will hear more about was very tough. I have more than 9000 miles under my belt riding for the I4k, but yesterday was one of the toughest days if not the toughest. One hundred miles of headwind is tough physically, mentally, and emotionally. It takes steadfast determination not to give up in those conditions and the team really pulled through. We could have found a way to “shuttle” in to the campground, but that is not what the Illini 4000 does.

As I mentioned above, the team has been camping a lot more in recent days. Camping on this trip isn’t like a camping trip that you may take for a weekend getaway, but more of a challenge. After riding 100 miles the last thing you want to do is set up tents and cook for 28 hungry riders over a small camping stove, but it really shows team work at it’s best. Some of the riders really stepped up while camping to make up for the extra strain on the team. This morning was especially tough trying to eat our cold cereal before the morning headwinds blew it away, but morale held strong in the morning. For our morning ritual we circled up and each spoke about our connection to cancer which really kept us going in the challenging conditions.

Tomorrow we head to Portland, Oregon, one of the bigger cities we pass through on the west coast, and the final destination for last year’s trip. It feels very unusual to head to Portland this time around knowing that I will continue to ride hundreds of miles before finishing the trip. Last year I had no need for bike shops in Portland because the trip was over, but this time I will need to find parts to continue our journey with. After having retraced many steps from last year’s ride, the coast will be entirely new to me. This is both exciting and scary as we head in to the unknown. I am especially grateful that the team has become much more self sufficient now and will need less guidance than in the first two thousand miles. It has been a privilege to see the individuals grow in to the riders they have become as we push to the final stretch of our journey.

Comments (7)
  • Carol Russell (Mary's Mom) says:

    Hi Conor, This has been such a wonderful journey. YOU have been an AMAZING leader for the entire team! You have alot of responsibility and you handle it well! I enjoy reading your blogs! I hope you enjoy your ride through Portland! Keep up the good work.

  • okay…it was hard DRIVING in that wind on Sunday, I really cannot imagine how everybody made it 100 miles biking. I’m tempted to write it off to the energy and vigor of youth, but I recall my youth and have serious doubts if I could have even made it halfway. You have a special group and must be supremely inspired by your cause to come through it all with such a positive outlook. Looking forward to seeing you in Portland.

  • ME Robbins says:

    Good to see you again, Conor. We very much enjoyed honoring the team at the Portland club event last night. I4K is a truly inspiring group of students and we’re very proud that they are UofI students. Best wishes on the rest of your journey. You are always welcomed in Portland. We’ll be thinking about you Friday afternoon as you hit the Pacific ocean!

  • Admeral T. Cornwall says:

    PORT LAND!

  • donna kalis says:

    Amazing team. Amazing God. Amazing is His creation you’re seeing.and the team I’ve viewedeith His loving assistance. Thanks.
    Love, Donna

  • donna kalis says:

    Amazing team. Amazing God. Amazing is His creation you’re seeing.and the team I’ve viewed with His loving assistance. Heartfrlt thanks.
    Love, Donna

  • Karen Biesack says:

    I cannot tell you how proud we are of all of you!! Conor, you know that Cancer has touched our lives all too recently and we appreciate all of your efforts. It has been a blast keeping up with the blogs and cannot wait to talk to you in person about your adventure. Best wishes to all on the last leg of your trip!! Keeping you all in our prayers for a safe trip!!

    Love, Karen

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