College was over which opened the door to a new adventure. I decided to saddle up and set off to bike across the country with the 4K for Cancer. My good friend and housemate at college, Sam, brought it up to me one day when we were discussing the daunting question of what to do after college. I was instantly hooked on the idea and upon further research of the organization and cause I knew that this was exactly what I wanted to do after graduation. The 4K for Cancer is a charity bike ride to raise money and awareness for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. The mission was to bike 4,000 miles from Baltimore, MD to Seattle, WA in 70 days with a group of 26 other college age kids.
We met our full team for the first time the day before we were to set off on this amazing journey, it would be the first long distance bike ride of any kind for all of us. The first week of the trip was our boot camp as we all got adjusted to life on the bike. It was a mental and physical test for all of us as we got right into things heading north over the Appalachian on day two. Day one was a 60 mile ride mostly on a trail and flat but was still longer than most of us had ever biked in a single day. We rode with alumni from previous years this day and they gave us advice and managed the logistics of the days ride. After that we were on our own and faced with a mighty challenge. It was tough but after the first week we really started finding the right gear and everything was running smoothly. (Read about week one on my previous post Finding the Right Gear). That week we became a tight knit family that worked together and motivated each other every step of the way.
When applying to the 4K we all wrote about why we wanted to ride and our connection with cancer. I wrote about my grandfather who had colon cancer and had recently passed away. It was the first close death that I had experienced and opened my eyes to how valuable life is. Upon filling out the application I found out that I had many family members that have been affected by cancer which assured me more and more that this was something I needed to do. You can read why I road on my 4K profile page . Every rider had to raise a minimum of $4,500 to participate, so I reached out to family and friends and through their generosity met my goal but also learned of many of their connections with cancer. This deadly disease is so wide spread it seems to have touched most peoples life one way or another. One of the great parts of the ride was the dedication circle in the morning, where we gathered round and said who we were riding for that day and would sharpie their names on the back of our legs. This was our way of giving back to our donors and to help motivate ourselves throughout the day.
Once we all got our legs under us the biking for the day almost became an afterthought. It was no longer, ‘this is going to be a hard day’ or ‘how many miles do we have to go?’ but instead ‘who will we meet on the road today?’ and ‘I can’t wait to get to town and explore’. We were all having a blast and soaking it all in. It was great to tell people our story and mission along the way as well as here their own stories and connection with cancer. All of our hosts were amazing, providing sleeping arrangements and meals as well as a cancer to interact with the community members and tell them our story. Each night after dinner with our host and some community members we would each go around and tell them why we were riding and invited them to share their connections with cancer. This was a great way to end the day and interact with the communities and spread awareness of or mission. The 4K’s motto is Cycle, Inspire, Unite and that’s what we tried to do across the country by telling our stories and bringing communities together.
Aside from our mission this trip was an amazing was to see the country. On a bike you are immersed in your surroundings from being exposed to the weather to the jarring of every bump on the road. You get to see the slow transition of culture and landscape as you look towards the horizon over your handlebars; stopping in town to town and meeting the people and experiencing their lifestyle. There is no falling asleep on a bike (well close but it’s scary) like in the back of car and missing two states, it takes days to get through a state. You’re not on some four lane highway connecting city to city but rather back roads passing from one small town to another. We took detours to swim at lakes and waterfalls, stopped in national parks and camped and went hiking. We lived by the YOLO lifestyle taking advantage of every opportunity we could. We went to the county fair and saw the horse pull, went white water rafting, floated rivers, attended a bluegrass festival, and saw rodeo. No matter how tired we were from biking all day every day we made sure we did everything we could to experience it all. The YOLO lifestyle came with the YOSO lifestyle, You Only Sleep Once …when you’re dead.
The 4K for Cancer was one of the best experiences of my life thus far and I will forever remember the summer of 2012 with Team Seattle. I was able to pay tribute to my grandfather as well as ride for my good friend Paul who was diagnosed with cancer while I was on the ride. I made lifelong friendships with my teammates and got to see the country from a unique perspective. I would recommend everyone to check out the 4K for Cancer website www.4kforCancer.org and apply to bike yourself, make a donation, or follow rider’s blogs as they go across the country.