Day 19: Zach in the Spotlight

Zach had the ride dedication today.

A sunny, breezy 77 miles from Champaign to Kankakee. We were joined by some I4k alumni and one brave mom (you go Mrs. Behyl) on today’s ride. Looking around at the network of previous riders was really cool and gives me hope that we will stay connected as a team even after this summer ends. Although the sun was very hot beating down on us, Dylan’s parents were generous to ride along the whole way with us and provided the team with snacks during rest stops.

In the third edition of team member Tuesday Thursday, ride leader Zach is in the spotlight. This is his second year completing the ride. He responds to “Zach” “Dad” or “Mom”, take your pick.

Why did you first join I4K? I first joined my sophomore year (2015) because many people in my life had been affected by cancer.  I also wanted to be a part of an organization that seemed meaningful, and I liked how I4k involved traveling for a cause.

How long have you been a board member? This last year I was director of the Portraits Project. I was also on the Portraits board the year before.

Has being involved with I4K shaped you in any way? Definitely. Being in I4k has made me more patient and I have developed a respect for the generosity of random people. My faith in humanity has been restored (laughs). It made me grow up a little bit. It has forced me to get things done on a deadline.

Do you see yourself cycling after this summer? Yeah I’ve always wanted to do bike racing. Or a criterium (race consisting of several laps around a closed circuit, the length of each lap or circuit ranging from about 500 m to 1000 (thanks Wikipedia)). I want to push myself to do shorter races that involves more speed.

How does this ride compare to your last? This one has give me more appreciation for I4k and more appreciation for the ride leaders. Right now I am always “on”. It is kind of difficult sometimes but also nice. When the team works together it all comes full circle and gives Tyler and I more satisfaction.

How has this organization evolved since you first joined? Every year everything gets smoothlined. The training gets harder, but that way we know what we can expect from people during the ride. Team meetings are planned to a T. As an organization we are becoming more serious- social media and they way we present ourselves has come a long way. I am still impressed that we are run by students without outside help.

How do you like being a ride leader so far? I really like it. It makes me happier because I’m able to help people when they need it. There are a lot of situations where people don’t know what to do and I can be there for them. I am given opportunities to make real decisions that have real outcomes, in a lot of ways being a ride leader is like a real job.

What is the hardest part about it (being a ride leader)? I really want the team to be happy all the time. If it’s a hard day I don’t want to inflict people with more stress even if it needs to get done like packing the van, etc. I care about each team member’s well being and I want make sure they’re having a good experience.

What is the next big thing you see yourself doing after this? SLEEPING (just a joke). I would like to hike the Pacific Crest Trail one day.

Describe i4k in one word: Bliss

Tomorrow’s forecast: corn sightings on the way to Frankfurt.

Chicago countdown: 1 day!



Day 18: Back in the ‘Paign

Crazy day today crossing the border from Indiana back into sweet home Champaign-Urbana. Near perfect conditions for the first 20 miles of the ride were followed by some strong headwinds for the middle and end of the 77 miler. We all celebrated when we saw the Illinois state border sign, and were able to capture some pictures of us scaling the top of it.

When we arrived we were greeted by a crowd of family and friends as we rolled up to Alma Mater to take pictures and then headed to Illini Grove for a potluck picnic complete with more Chipotle, pulled pork and even homemade ice cream (thank you Jeff).

Being back to our familiar campus surroundings felt nice but surreal. Coming back to Champaign, it almost felt as though all the miles we have covered leading up to this point had not actually happened, or that all of our journey leading up to Illinois was only an extended practice route. Which, according to veteran members of the team “the ride doesn’t even start until after Chicago” so perhaps from New York up to now actually was an extended practice ride after all.

Countdown until Chicago count: 2 days




Day 17: Bless Up Rockville

Alia’s grandfather Fadhil took the ride dedication today. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2015 and is still battling today. He originally moved to a town near our stayover tonight in Rockville Indiana which made the ride today extra special.

Upon hearing tales of the food, pool, and showers at the famed Rockville stayover during the morning meeting we were extra motivated to finish today’s ride as soon as we could.  Compared to the rough patch of the past two days, riding today felt like a pleasant stroll (minus the less than ideal state of Indiana’s roads). We could not have asked for better conditions with a breezy high 70’s climate and plenty of opportunity to call dibs on the cows* that we saw on the mostly empty county roads.

We encountered even more incredibly generous people today when a Dollar General manager donated cases of water and PBJ supplies, who then inspired a kind delivery truck driver to give us lunchmeat.  Any substitute to the daily lunch PBJ can mean the difference between a memorable lunch or just another forgotten meal due to the routine-ness of I4k life.

It seems that these stayovers are in competition to one up each other on offering us the most over-the-top amenities. This team of 18-23 year olds turned into a bunch of middle schoolers today when we were provided with the opportunity to spend a few hours in a church community member’s backyard pool (chicken fights and all). Our hosts continued to spoil us with a filling three course meal complete with salad, pulled pork sandwiches, and the most incredible angel food cake I have ever tasted. Who said we would be roughing it on this trip?

What I realized about todays near perfect day, was that it felt so good because we had the past two days to compare it to. It is almost guaranteed that this experience will offer each person a spectrum of emotions and hardships. Today’s experience would not have been as fulfilling if every day was pools and angel food cake. The joy of being able to ride to a new place every day and being able to be a part of I4k is very closely tied to the adversity of the experience. And because of this I will now be more inclined to welcome the everyday challenges. Bring it on, Western United States.

*My Cow™ is a classic I4k game in which riders call dibs on cows. You may double your amount of cows if you see a church. You can kill the cows of other players if you see a cemetery. You can save your cows from a cemetery if you say “save cows” before other players. Enjoy.*

See ya tomorrow Alma Mater



Day 16: I Blame Indiana

A friend of Dan’s, Krystal, who was diagnosed with breast cancer during her sophomore year of college took the ride dedication today. She was a studying elementary education at Illinois State University when she eventually lost her battle.

With humid and hot weather and legs and bottoms still sore from yesterday’s century, today’s 71-mile ride was another hard one.  Although there were only slight headwinds, it still made riding that much more difficult. The difficult day was made better with a rest stop at DQ. Most of the team treated themselves to blizzards to cool down during this time.

As the team continues to become more comfortable with each other and riding our bikes, our ride leaders remind us that “real I4k doesn’t start until after Chicago”. Meaning that the most difficult part of our long journey is yet to come, once we hit the West. With tales of driverless roads in Idaho, and stretches where even gas stations are not to be found in South Dakota, we have been informed that most riders will find a day where they hit their own personal wall. Us new riders are reminding ourselves not to become complacent. Participating in this ride continues to prove itself to be multi faceted: fighting cancer, cycling, experiencing the country, and personal growth.  Hopefully the peaceful dynamic that we have established amongst ourselves can continue all the way to San Francisco. I am staying hopeful.

When’s the next rest day?



Day 15: A Century a Day…

The dedication today was in honor of Logan’s grandparents. Both of them battled different forms of cancer and eventually passed some time ago.

Shameless plug alert: birthday shoutout to myself to Tyler.

First century today! In order to conquer the 100 mile stretch between Columbus and Richmond Indiana many groups today spent the 20 mile intervals between rest stops chatting or listening to music. We were lucky today that we had minimal turns, spending most of the day on route 40. My group today was introduced to “the hot seat” by veteran rider Tyler. This game consists of singling out one person in the group and having the other people ask as many personal questions which can be as intimate or silly as they please.  This game was able to entertain our group for over 80 miles and we barely minded the distance we had covered.

Leaving from Ohio at around 7:30 we arrived in Indiana at around 8:00.  By the time the team regrouped at the stayover together, all of us looked pretty defeated. From sore bottoms to extreme hunger and tiredness, everyone seemed ready for a 10:00 bed time.

Feeling accomplished that we did our first century but hoping that we don’t have another one for a while.

Currently accepting chamois butter donations.



Day 14: Groundhog Days

We rode for Johnny today. Mackenzie stepped up to dedicate the ride to his uncle that is currently battling skin cancer.

Today’s 60 miler seemed like child’s play compared to yesterday’s doozy of a ride. Tomorrow will be another hard day for the team as we will complete our first century (100 mile ride) to Richmond Indiana. Now that we have exited New York, crossing state lines seems to come as frequently as the passing of each week. During the first 40 miles of today’s ride we were able to coast. We even got to bear witness to the largest strip of yard sales in the United States. Every year Route 40, which runs from Ohio all the way to St. Louis, hosts an annual yard sale along the side of the road.  With instruction from ride leaders that we had to carry whatever we bought, our group decided against treating ourselves the wares, which mostly consisted of baby goods and old furniture.

With the passing of each day time seems to move in the strangest way. Although every day seems long and hard, the routine of it, when looking back, makes it all seem to be passing by so quickly.  Whenever we notice what day of the week it is we feel confused, because when riding, “every day feels like a Tuesday.” Keeping up with the news is a luxury and most of us could not tell you what is currently happening in the world outside of what we see on the side of the road after riding for 8 hours every day. Things are stating to blur together due to our extremely routine schedule, and we are only able to recall memorable things from each day. “Where were we when we happened” “Oh yeah, the place with (that thing), now I remember” is a daily conversation at this point.

Although we are only two weeks into our eleven-week journey, I am already starting to get the feeling of wanted to freeze time. Picturing riding into Golden Gate Park is one of my motivators when riding, but in a way I am dreading that day. I think I speak for everyone on the team when I say being a part of this groups is one of the most rewarding things you can force yourself to do, and I don’t want it to end. I know I will miss the ride once it has ended.

Pray for our legs tomorrow