Day 63: Connell, WA to Yakima, WA

Today’s ride was dedicated to Tammy, a good friend of Marie’s mom. Tammy is a breast cancer survivor who has undergone many different surgeries and a year of chemo during her battle with cancer. She has always remained positive and it was an honor to dedicate the ride to her today.

Well, today’s ride was supposed to be the longest remaining ride of the trip ringing in at 96 miles. However, we ended up shuttling for about 35 miles due to some smoke coming from wildfires in the distance. It was really far away from us, but the fact that we could see the smoke in the air was enough for us to get off of the bikes and shuttle to where there was no more smoke visible at all. Shuttling creates a different kind of long day that involves a lot more waiting around than biking, but we had a nice time getting to hang out together and did get to finish the ride after we were past the smoke!

Tonight we are staying at the Wesley United Methodist Church. They are so kind and cooked us some food, shuttled us to showers, and gave us 12 whole bags of fresh cherries! I did not know that cherries are primarily grown in the state of Washington, and they are DELICIOUS. We also got some food donations from some area restaurants that made for a really big dinner ensuring we are all going to bed stuffed :)

You might recall from previous posts that Marc is our team mechanic, and I really want to emphasize how much he does for the team! Our bikes are definitely the most important tool that we have in this adventure of cycling across the country. Bikes are a little more fragile than cars in the sense that if one little thing is off, the whole vehicle can be off. Marc used to work as a mechanic in his local bike shop and he knows a TON about bikes. He has been able to fix almost every single bike problem both big and small no matter what. He always offers to work on people’s bikes at any hour of the day, even if it is during the middle of the ride at a rest stop and he has not even gotten a snack or a drink of water yet. You can tell that he enjoys the work and he offers so often that you don’t even feel bad asking for help, which is really important because it means that if someone has the tiniest of issues, they don’t feel intimidated to ask Marc for help because he is so open and will never make you feel bad for not knowing how to fix it yourself. I think that’s such an important characteristic to have as a teammate, and it is something I really appreciate about Marc. I have learned a lot about bikes from him and continue to learn more and more each day!

Day 62: Pullman, WA to Connell, WA

Today’s ride was dedicated to Joe Wadden. Joe is a friend of Steven’s Aunt Gail, and is currently undergoing treatment for metastatic kidney cancer. Joe has a wife, a 9 year-old daughter, and a 7 year-old son who he is fighting hard for. He rode his bike across the United States about 30 years ago (so cool!) and intends to do it again some day. We hope that Joe is able to follow along with our cross-country adventure and will be able to set out on another of his own soon!

Today was a long trek: 101 miles with a 15+ mile per hour headwind the entire route. It seemed that no matter what direction we turned, the wind kept blowing right in our faces. Nevertheless, we kept pedaling and kept moving. We biked through the rolling hills of wheat that turned into rolling hills of rocks – none of us knew what to expect from this part of Washington but it certainly has not been like we imagined it would be!

Tonight we are staying at Connell High School where we are lucky to be warm (it’s pretty chilly outside – sorry to our IL friends and family going through this heat wave!) and dry and clean because of their awesome facilities that include showers. We also want to thank the Pizza Station for providing the whole team with a delicious dinner tonight complete with a salad bar to make sure we have our nutrients!

Today was tough for a lot of riders, but Viraat especially kept morale very high today and I definitely want to say more about him & his spirit! I remember doing my Illini 4000 formal interview AND physical try-out with Viraat and I was thankful through both that he was very positive and a very thoughtful person. Viraat notices when people are down and always goes out of his way to ask if he can do anything or will just keep up his own positive attitude to spread to others. He is always there to help out, lighten the mood, or simply be by your side through a tough day. Viraat is also our Portraits director while on the ride, which means he is in charge of the filming and organization of our Portraits – definitely the most important thing we do on the ride. We all like to poke fun at him a little bit for his “Portraits Pitch” (he uses the word serendipitous every time he talks about Portraits – Viraat definitely has a large and unique vocabulary!), but I admire his passion for the Portraits Project and know that he believes each and every word he says and genuinely wants to hear people’s stories. He has met so many people on this ride just by starting up a conversation, and many of our ride dedications have been found because of his passion for talking to others.
He is also famous for turning anything you say into a pun (I guess you could say he is punstoppable).

Day 61: Plummer, ID to Pullman, WA

Today’s ride was dedicated to Richard Hill, Sherry Hoon, and Becky Campbell. All three of these individuals are people we met during our ride a couple of days ago into Mullan. Richard is a survivor of kidney cancer who has been cancer free for five years! He means the world to his family and it was an honor to be able to ride for him today. Sherry Hook is a breast cancer survivor (!!!!!!), and Becky Campbell is currently battling breast cancer. We are thinking of Becky and her fight ahead of her and admire both her and Sherry’s strength.

Our ride today was 57 miles (for most groups – one group had a little 10-mile detour and made it a 67 mile day) into Pullman, WASHINGTON! We have officially reached the west coast!!!! We have not seen the pacific yet, but knowing it is at the other side of this state is incredible. The ride today was pretty windy and absolutely beautiful. It is pretty crazy how drastically the scenery changes when we enter a new state. So far we have seen rolling hills with wheat and a lot of pine trees.

Tonight we are at the Emmanuel Baptist Church and it is AMAZING! We are able to sleep in their very comfortable community room and are also able to hang out in their youth room – complete with air hockey and video games. The church members were so kind to us and grilled us burgers and hot dogs and provided salads, chips, cookies, fruits & veggies, and other treats! They are also cooking us some breakfast casseroles for the morning which we are extremely thankful for. There are definitely many teammates who have grown pretty tired of our oatmeal breakfast so it will be extra special to change it up a bit :)

Today I want to highlight the iconic Marie Hubbard! Marie is such a character and adds so much to this team. Her iconic sayings have become integrated into my own vocabulary and will probably always be a part of the way that I speak. Marie is a natural leader who is very organized herself and keeps our group on track so much. She is always one of the first people ready in the morning and is always helping others with their tasks while encouraging people to be a little more speedy (which is very necessary when everyone is groggy in the morning). Marie was only a freshman this past year, which I would never have guessed just by knowing her. She is an incredibly responsible teammate and an excellent rider. I know that I do not only speak for myself when I say that I would trust Marie to accomplish any task and would want her on my team through any type of situation on and off of the bike. She will be on the board next year and will help pick the 2020 Bike America Team and will contribute to the decisions that the organization will make. I couldn’t think of a better person to represent the 2019 team and am so thankful to have spent the summer around her!
(and that’s the tea!)

Day 60: Mullan, ID to Plummer, ID

Today’s ride was dedicated to Sandy. Sandy is a close friend of Steven’s mom, and is currently battling renal cancer. She is staying incredibly strong fighting the fight with her family right by her side. We thought of her and her family and friends all throughout the day as we biked.

Today was 72 miles from Mullan to Plummer Idaho entirely on a trail!!!!! And this trail was paved and absolutely beautiful. We had a fun treat today because we got to play music out loud on our bikes due to the fact that we were exclusively on a trail and therefore did not have to worry about any cars around us. Of course we kept it to a reasonable level so that we could still hear each other, and it sure made the day go a lot faster! Along the way, we say an old mine, a moose, and a lot of kind people.

Tonight we are staying at Lakeside High School in Plummer. We were able to shower, swim, AND use the hot tub at the Marimn Health Wellness Center thanks to Terry who is a local and was able to talk to the staff there. We were really excited to get to relax and swim and take our time there. We are also getting various food items from generous nearby restaurants who donated to us! The team has gotten pretty good at calling for food donations: this evening everyone was on the phone making 109 calls (but who’s counting) in order to make sure we had enough food for the team! It was a really fun team effort.

It is so weird/sad/exciting to say that I am getting down to the last couple of weeks of posting on the blog each day. I love doing the rider shout-outs, and I’m going to switch it up a little bit and do some longer posts about each rider starting today and continuing until we cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Maybe these posts will reach them, and maybe they won’t, but I want all of you out there to know a little bit more about each of these very special teammates of mine:

The first rider to be written about is going to be my good pal and honorary lil’ brother Zane Inman. Zane is from a small midwestern town just like myself, and he understands how important Casey’s gas stations are and is able to be confused about the Chicago suburbs just like I am. Zane does not like biking. Which is really funny, because this is, after all, a cross-country bike tour. Zane joined the Illini 4000 under the impression that it was a casual cycling club. Zane’s dad passed away after battling cancer when Zane was in high school. His dad enjoyed casual cycling and so Zane figured he would try out a cycling club. When he found out the mission of the organization was to fund cancer research and patient support services, he knew it was fate and that he had to do this trip. Hearing about Zane’s dad from him & his mom during a portrait back in Paxton IL really impacted me and several others on the team who were present. Zane still does not like biking. Nevertheless, he puts himself out there every day and does the thing. When I ask him how the day is going, I know he is going to be real with me. Sometimes he says “not that great” other times he says “today is a good day.” There is value in being positive, and there is also value in being real with one another and sharing our struggles and how we are doing and what keeps us pedaling every day. I’m thankful to have spent all of this time with Zane and have loved hearing about his dad and all of the great memories they have together. I also like his jokes even though sometimes they really aren’t that good (sorry buddy). Big shout-out to Zane’s mom & aunt, who I know give him a lot of strength on hard days.

Stay tuned for more rider info over the next couple of weeks! We are already leaving Idaho tomorrow and entering Washington state on the west coast. I am already sentimental about this team if you can’t tell!

Day 59: Superior, MT to Mullan, ID

(written in the Pacific Time Zone!!!!!!!)

Today’s ride was dedicated to Donna, who is the mother of Marie’s friend’s. Donna has a tumor in her throat, and this is her third time having cancer. At the current time, she has a lot of trouble with speaking due to her tumor, but has no trouble remaining positive for herself and her family and everyone around her. Such strength and positivity is what drives us every day to get through even the toughest days.

Today was about a 67 mile day that took a bit longer than expected! We began our day on normal roads, and then had planned on being on trails throughout the rest of the day. However, when we approached the trails it was evident that the trails were designed for mountain bikes, which would not be the best for our road bikes! Mountain bikes typically have larger and heavier tires that allow a person to go over rocks without skidding or losing control, and allows you to climb and go down rocky roads like this trail was. Our road bikes are, as named, mostly meant for paved roads due to their smaller tires that are kept at a higher tire pressure (say that five times fast). SO, we had a little reroute onto interstate 90, which we have rode on in several states now because a lot of states out west allow bikes on their interstates. Despite detours, we made it into Idaho and the Pacific Time Zone, therefore gaining an hour!

Tonight we are lucky to be at the Mullan Athletic Pavilion, where we have been able to make ourselves at home and take warm showers. At this point, we are undoubtedly the cleanest team in Illini 4000 history. A combination of luck and determination has allowed us to find showers in well over 85% of the places we have been thus far. The athletic pavilion also has basketball and volleyball which we have been playing all night, having a really great time.

Today’s shout-out goes to Mike, who was awesome in the van today. The reroutes were pretty stressful because we were in a part of the mountains that did not receive service, but Mike thought through every possibility and made sure that all of the teams were safe and together and knew the plan. We know he is not excited that his bike is broken and he is in the van, but he is a trooper anyway and always positive, supportive, and great to be around.

Day 57 & 58: Missoula, MT to Superior*, MT

Our rest day in Missoula was so much fun!!!! We started our day off touring the Adventure Cycling facilities. Adventure Cycling is a non for profit organization that leads groups of cyclists all around America throughout the year. We even derived our early Illini 4000 routes from their organization because the routes are very safe and cycling friendly. It was awesome to see some old bicycles around the room and read stories of cross country cyclists that came before us. After that, we split off and some group members went white water rafting, while others decided to take a more restful approach to the rest day and hang out at coffee shops, diners, and other local establishments. At the end of the day we all came together for a free meal at Five on Black (think, a Chipotle style restaurant but for Brazilian food!) and then had some ice cream before calling isna successful day off.

This morning we dedicated our ride to Viraat’s neighbor Tony Spicer. Tony is currently battling cancer, and we kept him and his family in mind throughout our ride today.

Our ride today was an easy 57 miles, except for it wasn’t that easy because we managed to get ourselves into some adventures today! There are times as I’m sure you know where Google maps leads you astray and you end up where maybe you shouldn’t be. Today, we were on a gravel road that eventually ended and lead to someone’s private property. After some impromptu hiking with our bikes, bridge climbing, and a lot of hard pedaling on gravel, we made it into Superior Montana (our website says Riverbend – this is the town just up the road!) with a lot of time to relax.

Our stayover this evening is the amazing air-conditioned Superior Community Church, complete with warm showers and a delicious home cooked meal. We are thankful to be here during our last night in Montana!

A huge shout-out for Marc and his family for sending us food on our rest day! We ate a lot of it today and it kept spirits high

(also shout-out to my own family for the snacks and words of encouragement, I love you!)