Day 22: Elmhurst, IL to Chicago, IL (& Day 23, Chicago Rest Day!)

It has been a crazy few days seeing family and friends in the Chicagoland area! Our ride on Saturday morning was dedicated to a young woman named Gina, who is a patient of Marc’s father. Gina is currently battling stage 4 adrenal cancer, and doing so with the attitude of utmost optimism and strength. Gina is 23, which is very close to the age of everyone on the team. We don’t often have the chance to hear from people our age about their journey, so it hit extra close to hear of her battle. Gina was initially told that she would not survive her diagnosis, but a year and a half later, she is still fighting hard and has even gotten to go back to work. It was an honor to bike into Chicago in dedication to her.

The ride was only 20 miles, and for the last 10 we had the privilege of riding along with some friends and family! We all arrived safely to the bean and were greeted with cheers, food, and a banner. There were even several members from past Bike America teams who came to support us and give us some advice and share stories about their year.

Yesterday we had a rest day in Chicago where we got to recharge and see family and friends. I personally did a lot of laundry and a lot of sleeping in. We begin our trek out west today! Coming from New York, every day we were biking closer to home. Now every day we bike, our goal is San Francisco. More updated of today’s journey to Wisconsin will come when the team is safely stationed in Lake Geneva for the evening!

Day 21: Kankakee, IL to Elmhurst, IL

Today’s ride was dedicated to Thomas Thomas Senior. Thomas was a friend Viraat’s father, and after beating colon cancer earlier in his life, he recently passed away. We rode in honor of both his strength and for those who miss him.

Today we woke up to a homemade breakfast made by the lovely Adventure Christian Church! We want to thank them again for being such amazing hosts and waking up so early to make us all breakfast. It certainly made the 71 miles easier on us. Today was quite an adventure! While many of us have GPS systems installed on our bikes, we also rely on paper directions that we call ‘cues’ that attach to our bikes for us to read. Usually, there are maybe 1-2 sections of cues, but today there were 7 sections – meaning that we had a whole lot of different directions to follow! We were fortunate to be on paved bike paths through much of the day – until one of the bike paths happened to be underwater due to the recent influx of rain in the area. No worries though, all groups went around the water and made it to our stayover safely!

Speaking of our stayover – we are so thrilled to be staying in the home of Marc’s parents tonight! They have been extremely generous and given us a day we will never forget. As soon as we rolled into their driveway, they had friends and family lined up to cheer us on and greet us. Not only that, but they also organized an entire dinner complete with a taco truck and delicious guacamole. It was so amazing to be surrounded by friends and family who are so deeply supportive of our journey. It is also so amazing to be sleeping in such a comfortable and welcoming home – I know we all feel very fortunate to have such wonderful accommodations.

This evening we also had a wonderful opportunity to interact with community members. We were able to attend a local Relay for Life event and speak about our mission, as well we conduct a couple of portraits. There is nothing more inspiring than hearing the stories of those who have been affected by cancer.

It is only right to give Marc and his family another shout-out today! This morning, Marc certainly woke up with extra pep in his step and was excited to show us around his home today. After meeting his parents, friends, and neighbors, it is no wonder that Marc turned out as awesome as he did – he grew up around some great people!

We are excited to roll up to Chicago tomorrow! It is crazy that we left Union station over 3 weeks ago on a train and will now be back after biking from Central Park. Time is flying, and we are ready for another rest day with friends and family before departing for the west.

Day 19 & 20: Champaign, IL to Kankakee, IL

Yesterday we all had a rest day in Champaign. We used part of our day to take our bikes into the shop and get some repairs and/or adjustments done, and pick up extra supplies. Because the next part of our trip is out west and there are less bike shops out there, we need to stock up on extra tires, brake pads, and bike chains. We put an extreme amount of wear and tear on our bikes and want to be prepared! Big thanks to Neutral Cycle and Champaign Cycle for hooking us up with supplies and adjustments. Another huge shout out to Steven, Brad, and Marc who made a lot of calls to set up the logistics of these shop visits. They all really made our rest day truly restful.

For the rest of the day, we got to relax and see any family or friends on campus. It will be a long time until we are back, and we enjoyed getting to relax on our home campus.

This morning we rolled out with several ride-a-longs tagging along! We had a great time hearing stories from other bikers as they completed the first 30 miles with us. The ride today was dedicated to the father of one of our ride-a-longs who passed away from cancer very recently. The ride was also dedicated to Ann Nardulli. Ann was a researcher studying the role of estrogen in breast cancer, working toward understanding the disease and helping to find a cure. She passed away from cancer just last fall.

We had an extra special lunch stop today at Zane’s house!!! His mom and sister hosted an amazing lunch of pulled pork, Italian beef, fruits and veggies, corn, and dessert. We felt so at home and enjoyed the food and company. We had the absolute honor to conduct a portrait with Zane and his mother and talk about why Zane rides, and how they have been affected by cancer. I think that this article says it best: http://www.news-gazette.com/blogs/starting-line/2019-06/honor-my-father.html

Zane (as well as his wonderful family) definitely deserve the rider shout-out today. A home cooked meal, good company, and stories of remarkable strength and love makes the hardest days worth it. I know I am inspired and moved by Zane’s story and will remember it always as I go throughout the rest of my life.

Tonight we are comfortably housed in the Adventure Christian Church in Bourbonnais! This facility is really awesome: it has an indoor turf soccer field where we are able to sleep. They so provided us with a taco bar for dinner!!! (I have been craving tacos since we left for New York, so this was very exciting for me)

Today was an 85 mile day, and we are ready for tomorrow’s much shorter 72 mile day. We are closing in on Chicago and are excited to see some more friends and family before we head out west!

Day 18: Rockville, IN to Champaign, IL!

WOW, we are so blessed today from all of the support we received throughout the day. We want to once again shot out the Rockville First United Methodist Church. This morning, they loaded our van up with fruit and snacks and also made us an AMAZING breakfast of pancakes, sausage, eggs, and fruit. We have been staying there for 12 out of the 13 years Illini 4000 has been in existence. We are blessed and thankful, and were honored to dedicate our ride to our Rockville Family today.

Today’s ride was really a blur, we were all so excited to get to Champaign! It was 77 miles, which is no small feat, but it went so fast. We felt like celebrities on our ride today, some of my own family was stationed along the ride to say hello as we rode, and then we had so many people greeting us at the Alumni Center when we rolled in. We were introduced by the Cancer Center and were given snacks and good company. It is so crazy that we are already back where we began, 18 days later! We are excited for our rest day tomorrow catching up on sleep, and catching up with friends and family.

Today I am going to shout out every single one of us :) this team means the whole world to me already. I have never been around such a funny, quirky, nerdy, somewhat unathletic (but very very determined), kind group of people. I felt so proud to be biking into Champaign surrounded by these supportive people! The rest of the ride is going to fly by I can already tell, but I’m thankful to have so much time left in the summer with them!

Day 17: Indianapolis, IN to Rockville, IN

Last night, we had the chance to hang out with Rebecca, who completed the ride in 2017. This morning, we had the honor to dedicate today’s ride to Rebecca’s Uncle Larry, who is getting ready to start treatment for his cancer.

Today was a fairly short ride, only 66 miles from Indianapolis to Rockville Indiana. We are pretty excited to be back in the midwest where the roads are flat and we have views of cornfields. It reminds us a lot of our training rides and it’s really awesome to be able to ride side by side instead of in a straight line. The days go a lot faster when you can talk to one another!

Our stayover tonight is an Illini 4000 favorite: the Rockville First United Methodist Church. This stayover always takes such good care of us with homemade meals, showers, access to a poo!!l, and entertainment! This evening we were able to watch the ding-a-lings perform their unique bell concert for us we were relaxing. We loved having a short day and having so much time to be with the members of the church and do hang out with each other!

Rider Shoutout: when we are rolling up to Champaign tomorrow, look out for our awesome painted van, done by our very own Cari! Cari is an amazing artist, and an overall amazing teammate. Biking with Cari is great because she always starts up the best conversations which helps pass the time and keeps the day lively.

We will be in Champaign TOMORROW and can’t wait to say hello to some of our friends and family at the reception at 4:00!

Day 16: Richmond, IN to Indianapolis, IN

Today’s ride was dedicated to Marie’s uncle Clay, who celebrated his birthday today! Clay is currently undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer. Marie says that his strength and resilience inspires her every day, and we were honored to get to ride for him today.

The ride today was a cool 71 miles, which was significantly shorter than yesterday’s century! Our legs were a little worn out from yesterday, but all of the teams made great time biking straight west on Route 40 to get to Indianapolis. We were welcomed by the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church who opened up their beautiful building for us to stay in! The YMCA at the Athenaeum in downtown Indianapolis offered for us to take showers in their incredibly nice facility, and we took full advantage of those before dinner.

Dinner was extra special this evening because we were able to eat with some I4K alumni who brought in a delicious dinner of chicken, baked potatoes, fruit salad, veggies (a rarity to find on this ride!) and brownies with ice cream! It was a ton of fun to share our stories with them and hear about their experience with Illini 4000. While we do similar things each year, it was cool to see how every ride is unique and our own.

One of the alumni even had a bike shop opened up after-hours just for us to do various repairs and tweaks to our bike. We feel very fortunate to have such an amazing network of alumni all over the country to help us out in any way that they can.

Rider Shoutout: Anisha is a rider that we are so happy to have on our team! She is a great teammate and does an excellent job stepping up as a leader on whatever team she is put in. Today, her group arrived to the stayover first and Anisha was so quick to come out and help unpack the van and was willing to help out wherever she could.