Bike ride for charity became journey of fulfillment
There were definitely times when I wanted to stop riding for the day. There was the day we left Havre De Grace, Md. for 85 continuous miles of hills that twisted and turned all the way to Washington, D.C. There was the time we spent in the Outer Banks riding on the same road for 40-mile stretches fighting dueling headwinds from the ocean — winds that would shake my bike from side to side as I tucked my head in and tried not to count every single mile marker we slowly passed. There was the ride to Charleston when it rained nonstop from the time we left Myrtle Beach to the time we finished. I wanted to stop every time the heat slapped me in the face. I wanted to stop every time we had to go back out into the rain after drying off. I wanted to stop every time I took a nice nap on a ferry and woke up remembering we still had another 50 miles to go for the day.
But that last day of riding? Those last few miles heading through Orlando? I never wanted to stop. I wanted those miles to stretch out before me like the previous 1,600 had behind us. The 1,600 miles of climbing, soaring, cursing, sprinting, chasing and singing that were behind us.
We sprinted through traffic in West Philadelphia, spent hours biking solely through fields of corn, crossed three state lines in a single day, chased the sunrise and raced the setting sun. We biked in the rain, heat, cold, fog and wind. Local cycling clubs from Virginia to Florida joined us along the way. We camped in the woods, by the beach, in a swamp and in backyards. We stayed in friends’ apartments, hotels, schools, homestays, ghost towns, campgrounds and a hobby farm. The funds we raised for Embrace Kids don’t go toward medical research or chemotherapy treatments. They are strictly used for the nonmedical needs of pediatric cancer patients and those with blood disorders. The amenities our hosts on the road offered — home-cooked meals, laundry service, showers, and a warm place to sleep — are the very things Embrace Kids offers its families. We would still be in New Jersey if it wasn’t for the kindness, good food and roofs to sleep under we received. The love and support revived our tired spirits to keep going every day. This bike ride wasn’t like traditional charity races. We saw no balloon arches, heard no live bands lined up along the road and passed no kids handing out cups of water along our route. There was never a crowd of people cheering for us to go the extra mile. No — the roads were sometimes lonely and sometimes congested with cars. Some days were long and hot while others were cold and wet. Some days we would be on the same road for forty miles of monotonous, flat terrain while others days we climbed hills so steep we thought we might start slipping backwards if we stopped pedaling. There were flat tires, bent derailleurs, broken spokes, worn-out brakes and stretched out chains. We got lost, stuck behind cars and had to take many detours.
If you want to see the country, I suggest no other way than by bike. Drive down I-95 and the only thing that you will see are billboards. The most authentic food you will eat will come from Cracker Barrel and your room at the Hampton Inn will disconnect you from the charms of the city you are visiting. Fly down the coast and you will sleep through most of your journey. The sweeping cornfields that dot the landscape will look like nothing more than green blips from your window seat. You will neither understand the height of each stalk nor have the chance to stare in awe as deer happily prance across the fields.
This journey wasn’t for personal accolades. It was for the kids. Now we want to pass on the dream. Our mission won’t be over until we raise $1 million for the Embrace Kids Foundation. If you want to join the Dream Team, we want to hear from you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us how you want to continue our mission. Hike the Appalachian Trail. Run from coast to coast. No feat is too big or too small. Make the impossible possible, and make a difference in the lives of others.
Gabrielle Rossi is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies and American Studies. She recently completed a 1,615-mile bike ride from New Jersey to Florida with the organization Dream4TK.