Day 66: Blizzards for Days

Today Zach dedicated the ride today in honor of former ride leader, Catherine Kemp. Catherine’s friend Shae, passed away 5 years ago today from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Today was one of the best rides we have had in a while. There was a slight tailwind for the whole 75 miles, great sunny weather, nice views of vineyards with hills in the background, and the best van driver, Rebecca, who generously supplied us with apples at the first rest stop.

Since today is July 25 it is officially i4Christmas!…Except we had to postpone it. This is an annual tradition where riders gift each other things that they have found on the side of the road along with another more personalized gift that they spend a maximum of $5 on. Since this team just can’t seem to get our sh*t together on pretty much anything, we had to postpone it since none of us felt that we had enough notice to get good enough finds.

Since today is Phil’s birthday his dad kindly got Dairy Queen to donate the team blizzards. Some of us wiser riders took advantage of the any size fine print and balled out on a large.

We visited the University of Oregon campus where we had a donated pizza and cake dinner at their student union, organized by Zach’s sister.  After dinner we had time to explore campus and avid runner Arturo had the chance to do a lap on the campus’ famous track.  Although their union is much more modern than U of I campus, with much better restaurants, overall the campus was not as ‘green’ as I expected.

Now that we are this far along in the ride our relationship as teammates has evolved from being really good friends to practically siblings. We engage in playful arguments about just about everything from whether the peanut butter is better served with a spoon or knife or who gets to sit where when we shuttle a group of 26 of us in our 15 passenger van, to who gets the couch at the stayover (usually Kevin).

At this point in the ride we are entering single digits of days left, as of tomorrow. I had a conversation with Micheline today and I compare my feelings towards the trip ending to being similar to graduating. While it is very bittersweet to be leaving this amazing group of people and having fun filled days and laughs every day, the days are growing harder and my legs are starting to give out.

Not looking forward to 6,000 feet of climbing tomorrow.




Day 65: And on Mondays We Nap

We had somewhat of a rest day yesterday as we rode 15 miles from Troutdale to real Portland city limits. We stayed at, or rather outside in tents, another alumni’s house, Jill. After we rolled in at around 10:30 Jill was nice enough to offer to do the team’s laundry. Then most of us headed into the city for the day, hitting all the famous destinations such as Voodoo Doughnuts, Powell’s bookstore, and the Salt and Straw ice cream.

Today’s ride was only a little longer than yesterday’s at 49 miles, probably one of the last short days for us. It was nice to have all the donated goldfish and cookie snacks from Illinois alumni and i4k alumni who met up with us at Miranda’s house. We went back to seeing mostly rural farmland with the occasional view of hilly pines in the distance. By the time we arrived most of us were still very tired from the lack of sleep from yesterday so we took multi hour naps on the gym floor of the First Methodist Church where we are staying today.

Tomorrow we are heading to Eugene, home of the University of Oregon



Day 63: Portland, We Have Arrived…Kinda

Today Ben, an alumni and former ride leader from 2015, dedicated the ride to Colleen, a friend of his who has been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. Colleen has a one-year-old son and husband.

Today was a complete spectrum of both emotion and challenge. We started our ride in Hood River and rode 75 miles and 5,500 feet of climbing to a suburb of Portland, Troutdale, Oregon. We had a majority of the climbing in the first 30 miles of the ride and it was extremely hard. We pushed our limits and pulled up a gravel road for 5 miles uphill through tall trees and small waterfalls. At the top we had amazing views of Mount Hood, the snowcapped wonder that is visible from both Portland and Hood River. Once we reached the top we even passed a trailhead for the Pacific Crest Trail.  After the torturous uphill climbing we had stunning views of endless pine trees and hills. It was amazing to ride downhill at 30 mph, smelling fresh pine, and seeing all the amazing views. The last 10 miles of the ride was also very challenging with much uphill climbing as we made our way to the stayover, Melinda’s house, an Illinois alumni who will be hosting us for this evening.

As we pulled up drenched in sweat and grumpy we were greeted by the Portland alumni association with cheers and signs and a backyard already stocked with appetizers. The mood completely changed as we pulled off our shoes and soaked our feet in the small kiddie pool and chatted over lemonade in the backyard chairs. The Portland Illinois alumni are a tight knit community, and there were even guests in attendance who had no direct ties to Illinois, but just came out to show their support. It was an intimate night as we chatted and ate quintessentially Portland all-organic grub. There was even a bike-powered smoothie machine that we had a blast with.  It was some of the best food that we have had, and very nice to have a home cooked meal after a streak of donated restaurant pizza and pasta and lentils. The next morning the breakfast was amazing again, but the coffee really was the star of the show. Thanks for the donation Starbucks!

We did a Portrait session with Molly, the bubbly and positive social worker fighting cancer. Even though she sat before us with a shaved head, she talked of being happy to be surrounded by her loved ones and reflecting on what is important in life.

It was a crazy day filled with literal ups and downs but overall it was an i4k day I will always remember.

Smiling from the inside.



Day 61/62: Wait are We in Washington or Oregon?

Neeca dedicated the ride today to her high school security guard. She found out recently that she died of pancreatic cancer.

Yesterday we rode 85 miles from Umatilla to Hook River State Park, and it was an extremely hard day filled with climbing and headwinds through a river gorge surrounded by yellow hills. It seemed that wind was characteristic of the area since the door of a convenience store we stopped in said “pull close if extremely windy”. To break up the long day we had 4 rest stops since the headwinds were so hard. Also groups split up leading into 3 mile interval pulls. Everyone was glad to be done with the day once we got back to the campsite at a staggering 8 PM. By the end of the day, fellow van driver Rebecca and I had spent 14 hours in the car after a brief stint waiting for some riders cuts to be bandaged in a local clinic.  However, the stars yesterday night were the brightest that we have seen on the trip and Nick Nodus and Analisa and I even saw a shooting star as we lay out before we went to sleep.

Today was infinitely better with only 55 miles, barely any headwinds and perfect crisp breeze. Since we were all so exhausted from yesterday’s ride, we took over a McDonalds for lunch, obviously using the McDonald’s app to get the best deals (major i4k key). We rode into Hood River Oregon, and it is absolutely beautiful. For me, it is one of my favorite cities we have visited. With views of snow capped Hood Mountain, a river dotted with wind surfers, hilltop lookout points, and tons of bikers and breweries (for the 21+ crew) we all are impressed with Hood River so far.

Making a decision on which state is the best is going to be very tricky in the end.

We all can’t wait for Portland tomorrow



Day 60: Oregon!

Julissa dedicated the ride today to momma Burton, a mom of her friend who has breast cancer.

Today we crossed yet another and second to last state border into Oregon. The scenery was pretty much the same as yesterday, yellow wheat?* and rolling hills followed by deserty hills. The 71 miles today felt like an easy day, however the mid afternoon heat made the last part of the day the hottest. Umatilla is a quiet town of only 7,000. For our first dinner we got a community dinner of salad, fruit, and pizza for only $2. Usually on i4k we look at the cost of food based on cals/dollar. And in our eyes the pizza dinner was an extraordinary deal.

Tonight we are staying at the McNary Elementary school. Once we arrived in the gym we noticed that there was a climbing rope. Christina was the only girl to make it to the top! To reward ourselves after the long day, some of us rode our bikes two miles to the ice cream joint in town. “Dairy dependent” Kevin, even finished a 44 oz shake.  After the long day of riding, Micheline was able to finesse showers for us at an aquatic center a few miles away.

We will most likely not have service tomorrow since we are camping in Mary Hill state park. IN only a few short days we will reach Portland. It is crazy to think that teams in the past finished their rides there. It’s so sad that this trip is winding down.

10 more days here, Oregon, what you got?



Day 59: Dad’s Time to Shine

Today we rode for a friend of Michaeline’s ‘grammy’ who passed away from cancer two months ago.

Lewiston to Waitsburg today. We crossed another state border into Washington state, our only night here. Although I expected greenery, our views today were mostly pastures and yellowish hills. Picture the scenery in the movie The Hills Have Eyes. Although it was not the green trees and mountains one thinks about when they picture Washington, it was still nice to see a different terrain in my opinion. During the last 30 mile stretch today it got extremely hot out, which made the 3,000 feet of climbing that we had even harder. Luckily Tyler donated Powerades to all the riders today to make up for the tough stretch.

What’s your hometown like? Wheeling IL. Pretty suburban, not much happening. Occasionally you got some happenings, we got a couple famous people out of the town. But really, nah nothing happens.

How does this ride compare to your last? Oh Man. It’s different. It’s hard to pinpoint what’s different. I think a lot of it has to do with the role as a ride leader. A lot of the time I forget that I am the ride leader.  I’m used to being concerned with a lot of things, every rider, food, small things. For the most part after a couple weeks people got the hang of things and Zach and I really only have to step in when necessary. That’s my favorite type of leadership. Only having to jump in when things need to be changed. It might not be the most efficient, but I think it leads to the most satisfaction for the team.

How does being a ride leader compare to being a rider? Constantly thinking about everyone else. The smallest things like whether they’re feeling well, if they’re having knee pain, whatever. As a rider I did best when I only had to worry about myself, as a leader I do my best when I’m concerned about others.

What the most challenging part about being a ride leader? Getting to know all the riders. I wish that there was enough time and enough ease to get to know everyone on the team. Though I do get to talk to everyone, it’s hard to get to know 26 people. But part of the role as ride leader you are watching everyone, and that creates a degree of separation, its different than I expected. I’m always observing how things are going sometimes.

What is the most rewarding part for you? Seeing how much the ride means to everyone. In Daymon Runyon in New York when they asked us why we are riding I winged it. I said I was doing it for everyone else. It’s one thing to have a life changing experience, but if I can do that for others, at least to make people think more, and make people appreciate others more, that’s why I ride. If I can do that for 26 other people I think that’s really powerful.

What are habits you have picked up during the ride that you wouldn’t do normally? A dumb one is that I’m addicted to sugar now. I usually have control, but I’m at the point where I’m buying a liter of Dr Pepper every day. I hope I get rid of this habit later. Right now all my body craves is sugar sugar sugar. A more profound one: I’m more willing to express my feelings and being more proud to share who I am. It’s pretty easy to open up on this team. No one judges or assumes anything. The way I act now is how I want to be in the future.

What is something that you will always remember about this ride? Watching firsthand day by day, as you guys experience i4k. During the school year at the meetings we talk at you about what the actual ride is like and all the boring logistics stuff and what not. And everyone is like “yeah wow that’s cool”. But not until day 1 do you actually realize what it means. And watching that realization of what the ride actually is is pretty memorable for me.

How has i4k influenced your life and how do you think it will in the future? I plan on going into non-profit eventually. The first time around made me realize that I need some kind of work that is fulfilling, and directly related to helping others. I don’t really have a preference, but I know something will happen in my life that will make me realize what direction I want to go in. But also how nice people are. It’s crazy how little we expect, and how well we are treated by others who have no idea who we are. People who let us stay in their school, church, whatever, it’s pretty amazing thinking that people are willing to do that. It pushes me to be more like the people we meet on the ride. Giving to us even when they have no reason to.

What has been your favorite day so far? 96 mile day in South Dakota. Most i4k feeling day. 96 miles and pretty hilly, but it felt like the ride. At this point we were very familiar with everyone and very open. Of course tailwinds help. Everyone was in a good mood, everyone was having a good time. We had good conversation, good miles. Riding was fun, it was very open and you could see very far in the distance. I was just happy to be there at that time. My group, Tina Sua and Nick Su, stopped at some abandoned house and explored that. It felt like the experience that I was waiting for. I knew the feeling that I wanted, and that was the first day that I reached peak happiness, or the most enjoyable day. Definitely a turning point on the ride.

What has been the hardest day for you? Day 1. We were the mamma birds letting the baby birds fly for the first time. There were a lot of miles and we got in at like 7:00 PM. I was already nervous going into the day and everyone was out riding on their own, and there was nothing that I could do about it. I just had to be confident in everyone’s ability to ride safely so it was very stressful.

Describe i4k in one word: inspirational