Day 42:Post Climbing High

Today Mason dedicated the ride to Aubry. She had neuroblastoma at a very young age and was treated with chemo and radiation. Although she doesn’t remember the treatment, she remembers how tough it was. After this she had no further fights with cancer.

We arrived in Gillette Wyoming this afternoon and were greeted by some exceedingly friendly church members. One woman was even nice enough to take us to all the hotspots in town which included an active coal mine.

Meet Christina Su. The nicest person on our team of loving a**holes, as we like to call ourselves. She is a ray of sunshine and it is impossible not to smile around her.

Where are you from: Bloomington, IL. It’s a good town to grow up in and I really like the people there.

What first got you interested in I4k: My Uncle passed away my senior year and going into college I knew I wanted to do something in honor of him. I first heard about I4k at sights and sounds which is part of freshman orientation. I turned to my friend and said “wouldn’t that be crazy if I did that” and a month later I was signed up.

What were your feelings before we left for New York: It was a mix between excitement and nervousness. I was super excited thinking about all the things we were going to see. I didn’t know what to expect really.

How are you feeling about the ride now: I am loving it! I never want it to end.

How do you think you’ll feel once we reach San Francisco:  Not sure. I try to imagine it, sometimes, and when I think about it I get really sad because I’m having so much fun. It’s sad to think that once we get there we’ll all be going our different ways. There’s so much so see still and so many people to meet, so the ride still has a lot to offer from here to SF.

What do you do to get you through hard ride days: My teammates help me get through a lot by encouraging me or telling stories and asking each other questions.  Remembering who we ride for and why we ride keeps me going.  Almost everywhere we go we meet people who have been affected by cancer and talking to people along the way encourages me even more.

Do you see yourself doing anything after the ride that compares to this: NO (haha) it still is super cool for me and I still kind of can’t believe that were doing it. Day 32 it really hit me that we are actually biking across the whole country.

What has been your favorite place so far: Really hard, definitely the most special was Rochester New York because that’s where my parents first came, and the police escort and the mayor, and on top of that I cleaned my bike on my own for the first time (haha). All the little things made it really special. When we were visiting the Hope Lodge there and seeing the wigs that they donate to cancer patients meant a lot to me because I donated my hair. That day was one great thing after the next.

What is one moment you’ll never forget: Watching the sunset in Madison Wisconsin with the team. Everything about it was super pretty.

Describe i4k in one word: life-changing

LOVE YOU TINA SU

MB

Day 41: WyOmInG

Crossed another state line today! Although today was hyped up to be one of the hardest rides due to almost 7,000 feet of climbing and the 81 miles, most of us felt very good at the end of the day.  We had the opportunity to see Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, and Black Hills National Forest. It was such a beautiful day. Seeing the famous monuments up close was also super cool. It amazed me at the level of detail the sculptors used to create the eyes, hair, and clothing on the president faces, and all using only sticks of dynamite. Before today I was unfamiliar with Crazy Horse. Similar to Mount Rushmore, it is a carved mountain depiction of a famous Lakota chief, Crazy Horse, with an outstretched bow and arrow riding a horse, or at least it will be once it is finally finished. It is much larger than Mount Rushmore. With 80 years of being in the works it still remains unfinished, likely due to budget constraints because the builders refuse to take government money to fund the project. Unfortunately we decided that the $5 cover entrance to the park was out of our price range so we took pictures at the gate.

Out of the three things we got to experience today, the Black Hills were the most impressive to me. Although I have mentioned this before, today actually felt like the West we passed by real mountains and got to smell pine. And even though there was a lot of climbing, being able to zoom back down at 40 mph made it worth it. So far Wyoming has been really pretty and I hope it stays that way.

BRB buying a cowboy hat

MB

 

Day 40: Rapid City Rest Day

Rest day in Rapid City. Since we are staying at the local YMCA we had to be out in the morning by 7 AM and could not come back until 8 at night, we had to find ways to entertain ourselves for the whole day. Most of the team went out for breakfast to treat ourselves to pancakes, omelets, and French toast. After breakfast we ended up splitting into smaller and smaller groups as we walked around the two blocks that made up the main area in Rapid City. Since the town was so small most of us made our way to just about every store there was. Other activities included seeing a movie, walking around to vintage stores, going out to lunch, and spending time at the street fair with live music.

While browsing through a bookstore Schuchen and I encountered a book called Haunted Hotels of the West. We noticed that one of the haunted hotels, The Alex Johnson, happened to be two blocks away from us. We walked up to the guest counter to find a journal where guests left stories of haunted happenings. For example, a flight attendant reported getting a voiceless phone call in the middle of the night and hearing children’s voices from the corner of the room. The 8th floor was also supposedly haunted because a young bride had committed suicide by throwing herself from room 812 back in the day. To investigate this we snuck past hotel security and took the elevator to that very room. We did hear a strange faint noise as we stood in front of the room…

Overall a nice day

MB

 

Day 38/39: The Badlands

Day 38 marked the official halfway point of our trip! Progress IS being made. We checked the first national park off our list yesterday: the Badlands. Since most of you are wondering “why is it called that” we learned that the name is a translation of the Lakota naming. It was titled this for its rugged and dry terrain.

Yesterday was probably one of the best riding days. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous and being able to witness the beauty of it all from a bike gave the experience a certain level of intimacy that merely seeing it from a car window just couldn’t offer. Our group made sure to take as much time to stop and experience the park. This entailed stopping at a gift shop to feed ground hogs, then stopping at every scenic point to climb the rocks and take pictures, and riding at a slower pace to take it all in.  We even got to see mountain goats up close once the sun started to set. Once we were on our last leg of the 60-mile day at the top of the hill we got caught in a lightning storm and had to be rescued by the van. Right before the storm got really bad the mountains looked so beautiful with muted tones of blue and pink, better than any of the pictures in the postcards.  Being in our uniform gave us the opportunity to chat up with many tourists passing through, and they were very generous with giving us water and congratulations.

 

Today we rode another 60 miles to Rapid City where we will have a rest day tomorrow. We saw glimpses of mountains in the distance as we biked up the rolling hills. Since most of the towns we have visited in SD have been extremely small I had low expectations for Rapid City. I was surprised by all the cute shops and unique restaurants in the ‘downtown’ area. Most of us are looking forward to being able to do laundry and chill out tomorrow.

The West just keeps getting better

MB

 

Day 37: You Don’t Know Small Town Until You Know South Dakota

This morning Jay offered up the dedication who spoke of Doug and Brick friends of his who also battled prostate cancer.

We could not have asked for better conditions for today’s almost-century (96 miles).  For the first time in a while the scenery seemed to change and we swapped the usual cornfields for…mostly nothing but rolling hills and cows. According to Mack, “today finally felt like we are making progress.”  We spent the whole day on a road off the side of the highway (one panel of cues, woo!).  There was a slight tailwind, around 70 degree weather, and nicely paved roads. Our last rest stop took us to a literal one horse town where we befriended a white pony tied to a sign post and spent some time at the only storefront in town, a gas station with about four shelves of goods.

Kadoka, where we are spending the night tonight has a population of 654 people. If you went to an average Chicagoland high school picture your graduating class starting their own civilization, and that is the size of the town we are staying in. Unfortunately, we had to break our amazing no-team pasta and lentils streak, which was still pretty good, especially after a long day.

After seeing no less than ten ‘Wall Drug’ advertisements today on our ride I am excited to finally see what all the hype is about tomorrow.

Home of the Free Ice Water

MB

 

 

Day 36: Still Zero Pheasants

Today we rode for Joe and Doug who we recently completed portraits with. Both of them are prostate cancer survivors. And also Pastor’s Matt from Miller whose step children whose father passed away.

The 20mph headwinds finally let up today making today’s 73 miles so so much better (even though we still had 10mph winds). The scenery we’ve ridden past has remained pretty much the same in recent days, except the sky has been noticeably bigger and the few cars that we do see passing on the interstate seem to vanish into the never-ending horizon.

As we pulled off for ice cream across the street from First Methodist Church, where we are spending the night tonight, we encountered a cancer survivor. Although our interaction with him was brief, he thanked us for our commitment and summed up a cancer survivor perspective better than anyone else with “it scares the sh*t out of you” as he walked off.

Later in the evening Jay, an exceedingly interesting man and church member of First Methodist, took it upon himself to entertain us for the night. He set up a backyard bonfire and provided us of-agers with some cold ones as he impressed us with his extensive knowledge from everything to famous architects to obscure Romanian dictators. As a veteran teacher with 49 years experience under his belt, he was well rehearsed in public speaking, and we all listened intently as he outlined his life for us, from his years teaching Latin in Germany, to students he still keeps in touch with. We were all starry eyed during his somber, yet lighthearted portrait documenting his experience with prostate cancer. To cap the night Jay  served the 21+ people his finest selection of tequila in his ‘That So 70’s Show-esque’ basement. As we were all leaving his place we exchanged knowing looks with each other that this was one of those ‘I4K’ moments that we will never forget.

South Dakota you continue to surprise me

MB