At the beginning of this trip, I had my doubts about whether I could finish or not. For years my knees have been problematic. Early in the cycling season, after a long day of riding, or really just strenuous exercise, I often had days of crippling pain in either the left or right kneecap. I’d limp around grumbling and frustrated, not knowing what to do. Cycling is an activity that I enjoy so much. It’s not just exercise to me; it’s therapy. Time on the road allows my mind to wander, clearing my thoughts; endorphins fuel moments of clairvoyance. I have often made some of my most important life decisions while cycling. Despite the pain, cycling was an important part of me that I could not abandon.
But it wasn’t just the knee pain that dogged me. I had my doubts about whether I could actually do this. 4,000 miles was a long way. And 7 weeks was a short amount of time to finish. I guess I was overwhelmed by uncertainty. After all, I have never before committed to such an exhausting physical activity. Or did I not believe in my self enough?
It wasn’t until I had reached Wyoming that I officially launched my campaign to raise funds for the Cancer Research Institute (CRI). When I decided that I was going to embark on this trip, I knew that I wanted to raise money for a charity. Besides the experience and accomplishment of biking across the continent, I knew that biking for a cause would provide much more meaning to this journey. But committing to a charity and asking friends and family to sponsor me seemed like a huge undertaking given my shaky confidence. In retrospect it was silly for me to think so. I regret not committing to the CRI earlier on. I hadn’t even told many of my friends or family that I had left on a cross-country cycling trip for fear of failure.
Early in the trip, I did have knee problems. I had to take it easy, took a lot of naproxen, and iced down inflamed joints. But I got stronger and my confidence grew. I drew energy from the clean mountain air. Each day was a victory, clawing my way closer to Boston. The beauty of this country served as an inspiration. Crossing the Cascade Range was an early victory followed in a few weeks by the Rocky Mountains. If I could cross the Rockies, I could do anything! I grew hungry to see more, to bike further, to push the limits.
Scott helped me immensely during this trip. Now, thinking about the journey, I wonder whether or not I could have finished if it wasn’t for his boundless energy. He being a seasoned athlete, taught me a lot about endurance exercise. His determination and laser-like focus on each day’s goal was no doubt a huge part of the success of this trip. We were a team even if we had our moments to disagree and I am thankful that we got through this together.
But perhaps the biggest surprise, and most inspiring aspect of this journey, were the connections that we made, and the sheer joy of making friends. We were greeted by such warmth and generosity by complete strangers. Accepting invitations from folks to sleep in their homes, random strangers buying us dinner; it required me to open my heart a little more. I have never felt like a person in need, but now I think that I know what it’s like. Allowing yourself to be in need and to seek the help of others is truly a humbling experience, and has probably left the greatest impact on me. There were certainly days when we rolled into towns not knowing where we were sleeping and what we would do for food. People were willing to help in so many instances. I just had to allow folks to help me.
Knowing that I too was helping by launching my campaign was also a great source of inspiration. By the end of the trip, I ended up raising over $6,700, well exceeding my expectations. I am a true believer in science: advancing our understanding of disease, and specifically cancer, through research, technology and human capital advances the plight of humanity. A truly worthy goal in my opinion.
Personally, cancer has affected many of my family members. A waitress in rural Minnesota told me she was a cancer survivor as she refilled my coffee cup. Patty, our wonderful host in upstate New York has a sister battling the disease. Friends and colleagues shared stories with me over email about how cancer had touched their lives. It affects so many families. I am delighted to have accomplished so much for this cause, and am truly grateful for all of those that supported me with donations and words of encouragement.
So thank you all very much for your support.
A newt “red eft” along the dirt bike path. My sister tells me that they are a good indicator species of the health of the environment.
As the trip draws to its close, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting over the events in the past two and a half months. I will be writing a separate post that will attempt to summarize all of these feelings. Let’s just say for now that there has been a lot of emotion wrapped up in this whole experience.
For the last two days, the plan is to bike from Northampton to my parents’ house in Lunenburg, MA. And then the next day, the 24th of July, I will arrive in Boston and reach the Atlantic..Finally!
Departing Northampton in the morning, the sky looked threatening. By the time I reached Northampton center, it started pouring. Good thing that I made it to Rao’s in time for a coffee and some breakfast. I decided to wait out the rain here since I had the time and the worst of it would probably pass. Massachusetts has been the rainiest part of my entire cross country experience!
Leaving Northampton, the plan was to cycle around the southern end of the Quabbin Reservoir: the northern route would take me over 202, which is really scenic, but also extremely hilly and kind of dangerous for bikes. About 20 miles into this section, in the town of Whatley, I got yet another flat tire. This would be the LAST one, but still. Come on! It was a sharp piece of glass this time that had worked its way through the tire. By now though, I’m a pro at doing this so I was back on the road quickly.
Coming around the Quabbin, I began to head north/northeast to my parent’s. Feeling like I knew the area, I relied less on maps, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought to navigate this part of the state. There were a lot of turns and not a single route to take like out west. At one point, I ended up taking a dirt rail-trail through Hubbardston and Barre. It was beautiful habitat - clean and pure and so undisturbed by humans. Tall dense hemlocks casted deep shadows along the path. It was raining again, but I didn’t care. It was fun to be in the woods again, and it reminded me of when I was young, riding my mountain bike through woodland trails.
What a long day - it was over 80 miles to reach my parents house and I was beat by the time that I got there. But little did I know about the feast that they had planned for me: all of my favorite comfort foods. Pasta with meatballs, lobster, corn on the cob. Outstanding. Thanks Mom and Dad!
The last day was really quick into Boston. Only about 45 miles. I left late in the afternoon and knew the way by heart so it was easy to get into the city. I hopped on the Minuteman Bike Path in Bedford and took that all thew way into Davis Square. I paused in Davis for a little while just to hang out and people watch.
Thank you to everybody that came out to greet me on my arrival in Boston! It is such a great feeling knowing that you have such wonderful friends and family in your life. This trip wouldn’t have been possible without all of your support.