Day 13: Did Someone Say Chipotle?

Julissa had the honor of dedicating the ride today.  She shared with us that her best friend’s mom was diagnosed with cancer and had beat it after two years of battling. Unfortunately, earlier this year she passed away once a tumor presented itself on her spine. Her passing occurred the day before the application for the team was due and this is what inspired Julissa to apply for I4K.

Many records were made today. The most amount of uphill climbing in one day, hottest day, most amount of roadkill seen, and arguably best stayover.  Our ride from Wooster to Zanesville consisted of 86 miles in 80-degree weather.  Although we usually only make two rest stops today we added an extra because of the longer route. Even though it seems that rides are starting to get longer and harder, these past two days have been made easier by being given the ‘OK’ by ride leaders to have music playing while we are riding. Most of the ride today was spent on the shoulder of a road with many trucks and cars zooming past us, and plenty of dead animals spotting the sides of the road. So many, that my bike actually ran over a ‘fresh’ one and I experienced a split second of being airborne.

Today we were reminded that we had exited the East and entered good ol’ Middle America as we passed by an Amish village.  We watched as farmers plowed their lawn with horse drawn carts and parked their horses and buggies outside of a local restaurant.

Everyone was motivated during today’s ride by the promise of catered Chipotle waiting for us at our Zanesville stayover. This Church was actually a stop on the original rider’s route 11 years ago, and they have stayed here ever since. Besides the awesome and plentiful food, we also got BEDS. Well, not exactly beds but cots, and if you’re an I4k-er it definitely counts.

Tomorrow’s 60-mile ride seems like an easy day and the team is looking forward to our second stayover next week in Chicago.

Excuse me if I smell like a dead animal.



Day 12: People

Christina dedicated to ride today to make her birthday extra special. She was initially inspired to join Illini 4000 for her aunt and her two cousins after her uncle, Ji Ding, passed away from liver cancer. Ji was actually one of the only survivors of a clinical trial several years ago, and then unfortunately the cancer came back her senior year of high school in 2015 and he passed away.

It is obvious that the team is improving their strength because the rolling hills today from Cleveland to Wooster barely fazed anyone. We were lucky today with the sunny skies and pretty scenery of a national park (no offense Ohio but your national parks could be another state’s forest preserve). Nonetheless the 76-mile day was made much easier with our gracious rest stop host.

Last year, the team happened to pass through a road side convenience store on the same route and encountered Troy, the wonderful store owner. He was so impressed with the team last year that he offered them complimentary ice cream and took a picture with them that ended up in the local paper and was displayed near the entrance of the store.  This year Troy organized a rest stop at the store. When we arrived we were offered a satisfying selection of sandwiches (anything besides PBJ is considered gourmet at this point) fruit and veggies, and milkshakes all around.  Some local reporters even interviewed Tyler and Zach and took pictures of the entire team.

Something that I have begun to take notice of recently is people’s reactions when we explain that we are riding across the country.  So far I have pretty much been faced with the spectrum of people like Troy and our other stayover hosts who have gone above and beyond and whereas other people in stores and others places have expressionless faces while talking in passing waiting in line at a store.  Today was my first extremely unpleasant with a pickup driver who then gave us an obscene gesture as he sped away honking while we were simply sharing the road with him.  These various reactions bring to light the spectrum of people that we share this Earth with. Overall the positive reactions have brought more joy into my life than darkness from the negative ones, and I hope this positivity means something for the rest of the world on a larger scale.

Since I accidentally brushed over Tuesday’s post (sorry followers) I made some adjustments to Team Member Tuesday and have now declared Thursday to also be fair game for our weekly interview. This week meet Maddie:

How is the ride going so far? (deep sigh) It’s not as hard as I expected but I think that’s because I had a lot of adrenaline during the first few days. Then my body started getting used to it so I think I was able to adjust that way.

What were people’s reactions when you told them you were doing this? Most people thought I was crazy but also after explaining the cause and the purpose of the organization they were more understanding of why I wanted to do it. Biking across the country not something that anyone can or would want to do, but everyone can agree that cancer research and patient support services are extremely important causes to support.

What has been the hardest part for you so far? The hardest part was having my body adjust to the sleeping and eating schedule. I was used to staying up late and then I was forced to wake up 5:45. It was also hard to eat in the morning at first.

What do you have to do for your position? I’m the co-social media chair with Christina. We post and comment on our Facebook and Instagram mainly. It is really important for our donors and the parents of the riders to see what we’re doing every day. I’m happy that this is a shared position because we get two different perspectives of the I4k experience.

How do you think participating in I4k will affect you after the ride?  I think that it has already made me understand myself a lot better. We’re with the same people 24/7 for 77 days straight so you have to learn how to constantly adjust and be with people. There is no time for ‘alone time’ really. It’s also made me into a more social person. I didn’t know anyone going into this, but now I can say I have 26 new friends.

What is your favorite thing to do or think about during the ride? I like singing to myself or talking with other riders if it’s a straight shot and easy terrain. But then if there is a really hard hill I always count backwards from 10 until I’m at the top.

What would you say to people who are considering applying for the team? Do it! I was nervous to apply at first. I had wanted to do it my freshman year but then I chickened out. I’m so glad I finally found the courage to do this because it has been an awesome experience so far.

Describe I4k in one word: family.

Hopefully you have read this far since this post was so long.


Day 11: First Rest Day


First rest day!  This morning Arturo was able to arrange a visit with Rainbow Children’s Hospital in Cleveland due to their oncology specialty. We met with a woman whose family donated the funds for a special terrace rooftop area where children could spend time outdoors with their families and a horticulture therapy room where horticulture specialists ran special programming for the child patients.

Rainbow Hospital was such a special place because of the specially designed architecture that was geared towards the children that would inhabit it, complete with animal statues and colorful building design. An oncology doctor gave us a brief presentation and I was surprised to learn that there were cases of older patients being diagnosed with cancers that were more common in children, and because of this they would be placed in children’s hospitals based on their cancers rather than their age.

After the hospital visit the team broke up into different groups to explore the city. My group was able to briefly visit the free Art Museum and take a look at the exhibits there. I enjoyed looking at American pastoral room and seeing the 18th and 19th century artists’ rendition of the scenery that we ourselves would see on the ride.   After this, a couple teammates and I took a satisfying nap on the museum lawn and then explored the little Italy section of town. We chatted over gelato and coffee and appreciated the down time that we had.

In the evening some of the team members took advantage of being in Cleveland and went to an Indians game while others chilled out in the church we are staying at. We have been on a lucky streak recently and have been provided with food by the kind people of the church community at many of the stayovers.  Hopefully we can beat the previous team’s record of only eating pasta and lentils for 8 days during the entire trip!  So far we have only eaten it once.

Although I thought I would be more than happy to have the day off, today I have actually been missing the feeling of being on the bike and being able to enjoy the scenery. I am excited to continue our journey tomorrow.

Sunny days and sleepy ways.



Day 9: Finally Outta New York

The dedication today was for a friend of Michaeline’s friend’s cousin. Ashley Gustafik was born with a brain tumor which eventually led to childhood leukemia. She passed away shortly after her 16th birthday.

A bit of a tough ride today. Luckily, what started as light drizzle eventually turned into a sunshiney day. However, today was our first day of riding with headwind and the team’s usual pace got slowed down significantly.

We finally made it out of New York! Although the state has many beautiful views to offer, some of us were starting to get sick of being in the same state for so long. Two state lines were crossed today as we rode along Lake Eerie.  Per I4k tradition, we took pictures at the Pennsylvania and Ohio state welcome signs. We were surprised by an Illini 4000 sticker on the ‘Welcome to Ohio’ sign from a previous year’s team leaving their mark. Pretty cool that it was able to stay intact after so long.

Although the wind made biking difficult, the team was able to look forward to our first Sheetz experience, one of the most underrated gems in this great nation of ours. Sheetz is a gas station chain in eastern states that features food orderable from a computer screen, exotic coffee like twinky flavored espresso, and some of the cleanest gas station bathrooms you have ever seen. Many riders took advantage of the two for $1 hot dog special as a treat and binged during a rest stop.

Another I4k tradition was begun today: the Mosher. In a previous year a rider found a ski pass id on the side of the road and picked it up. Erik Mosher was the name on the id. From there, a game of trying to slyly give the id away to someone else throughout the day was started, and whoever ended up with the id by dinner time had to make the team do whatever they chose the next morning. This morning the task happened to be a full team human pyramid in the middle of the Westfield Methodist Church. By the fourth row the entire pyramid collapsed (my bad guys).

Tomorrow we will arrive in Cleveland and get to experience our first rest day. I am very much looking forward to having the extra time to explore the city and walk around without bike shorts on.

Coming for ya Cleveland



Day 8: Rub Some Dirt in It

The ride dedication today for in honor of a close friend of mine’s mother. Annie’s mom, Sheila, was diagnosed with cancer while she was pregnant.  Due to her pregnancy she was not able to undergo treatment until after she gave birth. Unfortunately, treatment was started too late and Sheila died shortly after. One of the qualities I admire most in Annie is her strength and it was an honor to ride for her mom today.

The ride conditions today could not have been better: 70-degree weather, slight breeze, views of Lake Eerie, and a short ride day of only 59 miles. The team took the time to enjoy the lake views today at a rest stop and took pictures on the beach.

We arrived earlier than usual at our stayover and about half to team took the opportunity to walk 2 miles to the beach and relax. Westfield is a small town in the middle of grape country, and during the ride today we noticed a vineyard with a Welch’s sign.

We have not had to make our own dinner for five nights now, due to the dedication of Julissa, who is tasked with the position of calling restaurants and asking for food donations for the team. Tonight’s successful calls resulted in a carb lover’s dream of pizza, grilled cheese, and potato chips. No one was complaining.

Day three without a shower, but it seems the team hardly notices. The team has adopted the mindset that “if all of us smell, none of us smell”, which has helped a lot.

Before actually being on the ride, I was worried that the living conditions would make life difficult. However, the minimalist lifestyle has been eye-opening for me. And I actually have gotten rid of a few things I deemed to be excessive in the past few days such an extra towel, and an old t shirt. I think that living in this way for 11 weeks will really lower my living standards (in a good way) and make me more inclined to live a more minimalist lifestyle that I have adopted on this trip once I return to my normal life.

Staying clean by any means necessary (baby wipes)



Day 7: Inspiration Via Windows

70 miles, overcast, smaller shorter hills. The ride today was unanimously considered an easy ride from the team and most of us are starting to become more comfortable on our bikes. We have even been more inclined to think of stimulating conversation topics while riding rather than panting and thinking about how many miles until we finish.

The team has begun to notice how close were to the border of Canada by the increasing presence of Tim Horton’s, noticing Canadian brand beer at convenience stores, and even a Canadian flag sighting as the van passed a street close to the border. Because we are still in the state of New York, at times it feels like we are making no progress and the thought of reaching California seems far away, but things like this remind of us of the distance we are making.

One of the things I will remember most from today was the unexpected stained glass tutorial we received from a congregation member of the church we are staying in Blasdell, a town just outside of Buffalo (fun fact: Buffalo sauce was invented here). The man demonstrating for us, Ron, showed us the method of creating stained glass windows, and the precision and attention to detail that goes into completing this task. I had never really considered this process before and I was surprised by how time consuming and expensive this could be.

Ron explained to us that many churches are undergoing financial strain in these times and in order for the church to save money, himself and a few other members volunteered, none of whom were experienced in this type of work, dedicated weekly meetings to complete the task.  Spending three hours a week on the windows he predicted that the entire process of 9 sets of two windows would take 10 years in total, and since all the labor was volunteer, the church would only spend a fraction on it had specialists done it instead.

After his demonstration Ron began to talk to us about the effect that our cause had on the people we would meet and thanked us. He said to us “What we are doing with the windows is a small thing, but what your group is doing is a big thing. What you are doing is inspiring others” Another point Ron stressed was the importance of meeting and talking with people along the way. He even described his experience talking with a waitress the first time that he ventured west, was what he remembered most about his trip. Finally, my favorite Ron quote from this short meeting was “if you learn to like each other you can get a lot done.”

One more day in New York.