A Well Deserved Rest

Hey everyone! So I am currently sitting in the basement of our stayover in Pittsburgh contemplating on the happenings of the last couple of days. I have come to the conclusion that there have been few things in my life physically tougher than the most recent days.

On day 6, we were to ride from Everett to Mt. Pleasant, PA on an 80 mile adventure that had long gone down in the annals of the Illini 4000 as being one of the roughest days of the summer. And none of these preconceptions were proven false the entire day. I went into the day feeling great. The day before I successfully rode up my first ever mountain and had some sort of invincibility running through my veins. The ride started off quite easily actually as only a few hills stood between my small group of Christian, Ron, and me and the first rest stop at 20 miles. After that we had about an 8 mile stretch of relatively flat land which Ron so adequately described as being “a break” in the midst of all this elevation.

But as quickly as our spirits were risen, we started to go up. And up and up and up and up. And as soon as the end looked in sight, we went up some more. A slight downhill got us excited, but a quick right turn changed that very quickly and we stared in the face of the beast, the White Horse Mountain. It averaged over 10% grade for about 2.5 miles. This was one of the hardest physical challenges I have ever faced in my 20 years of life. Ron and I, two of the “big boys” of the team along with Connor Yanz, had much more trouble going up the mountain than our thinner counterparts. The hills are cake but when the mountains come into the picture it gets a little rougher. Lugging up to 60 more pounds than some of the other males proved to be a daunting task but after a few breaks we both made it up. This was the highest elevation we would be at on this side of the Mississippi River. I was so proud and so tired at the same time that I couldn’t even form words. I tried having a conversation with Josh to which he cut me off and responded, “Dude, you need to drink more water.”

As if one mountain wasn’t enough, we went through three others on that fine day. Sure there were the downhills, some over 4 miles long–I went 46 mph! A new record!–but it was heartbreaking knowing that all the progress just recently made would have to be done all over again. When we pulled into the stayover, however, I cannot describe in words how jovial I was to be there in the beautiful little city of Mt. Pleasant. As icing on the cake, Ron, Christian, and I were interviewed by the local newspaper about the organization and our personal goals and I was even a part of my first ever photoshoot! I felt like a celebrity and I would really like to personally thank all of our stayovers so far because they really treat us like they have royalty over even when we are using their food and shelter. I cannot stress enough that in their generosity lies the greatest strength of our organization and general mission. Everyone was so tired from the day that we all passed out early and had some of the best sleeps ever looking forwards to the 47 mile journey to Pittsburgh and then of course the rest day.

Day 7 started out well. Ellie’s brother Arie joined our group appropriately called “Team Arie” and we were all in high hopes of a short and easy ride compared to our previous ventures. Though not the near impossible ride of the previous day, it was not a walk in the park either as there were still many large hills to go along with an access of 90 degree heat. Regardless, we all rolled into Pittsburgh in the mid-afternoon excited and ready to rock. We ate dinner and some of us went to see The Hangover Part II. I don’t recommended it but we made the trip fun nonetheless. Then we went to bed and were able to SLEEP IN!!!! It was great!

After a team meeting, we each described what this trip has meant for us in the first week. I said that my favorite part about this trip is how close our team is becoming. Back on campus, the majority of us would not know each other let alone become friends. I love this chance at meeting these new and exciting people and I know that with their support, I will be rolling right across the Golden Gate Bridge come July 31. Thanks you guys you are the best!

The University of Illinois Alumni Club of Pittsburgh provided us with a barbecue after the meeting that was absolutely to die for. Few things in this world make me happier than a burger, a brat, or a hot dog and I ate many of each. While walking back in the intense heat, we passed a fountain and in true I4K fashion jumped right in with the locals. We told them about our mission and most didn’t even believe us. Coming from their perspective, what we are doing this summer does seem truly unbelievable, but then again isn’t that the best part?

I came back and did a lot of necessary TLC on my bike and just received word that we got free Chipotle dinner donated to us! I am stoked as Chipotle is one of my favorite restaurants of all time!

Over 90 miles to Cadiz tomorrow so that’s all for now! I hope you are enjoying the posts!

Comments (3)
  • Eileen Rock says:

    I for one am enjoying all the post! I look forward to seeing everyone on June 8, for lunch at our house! Glad to hear that a barbeque is a favorite cause that’s the plan. Hoping for a beautiful day too!
    Linsey’s Mom

  • Gayle winters says:

    Sean, you are such an excellent writer! I can tell it is a definite strength of yours. I like the humor in your blogs but most of all how you write with your heart and emotions. I hope you all have a great day tomorrow and the roads become flat much sooner than later! It is going to be another hot-humid day so please remind everyone to drink LOTS. Happy pedaling. Lauren’s mom

  • jschlesinger Jonathan Schlesinger says:

    “I cannot stress enough that in their generosity lies the greatest strength of our organization and general mission.” So true. Enjoy this opportunity to meet Americans from all walks-of-life.

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