Santa Monica to SAN DIEGO, CA!!

Well, the trip has finally come to an end. I am writing this last blog from my home in South Dakota, and it has definitely been a bittersweet ending. I will talk more about that later, though.

From Santa Monica, we made our way to Huntington Beach, CA. I was in the food van that day, meaning I got food donations for the team along with Lisa. We ended up getting $100 to Whole Foods donated! The manager there was very generous. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures from that day, but it was only a 45 mile day I believe. Once we got there, we stayed in two different homes in a nice neighborhood. Tyler knew the daughter of one of the hosts, which is how we made the connection. The hosts were very welcoming and hospitable, and we had a delicious dinner of sausages, salad, breadsticks, and numerous other grilled foods along with beer and wine. That night was also quite the special night. Kiersten, on our team, took the time to write down “spotlights,” or positive messages, to each and every person on our team! She read those all in front of the fire, and it was great to hear the amazing things she wrote about everyone. It was also a reminder that the trip was winding down to an end.

From Huntington Beach, we rode to Encinitas, CA. The ride was 70 miles, and we passed through very rich areas of CA, especially Newport! The scenery was also beautiful. Here is a pic from the ride:

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I had a great group that day, and we had a bucket list we wanted to fulfill, which included showing up to a water stop with our jerseys on backwards, riding on another person’s handlebars, switching bikes for a stretch, and much more. We also rode with members of the church we would be staying at that night, so they showed us around well!

That day, we were also very fortunate to receive cupcakes thanks to the workings of Heather’s mom. This is the cupcake place:

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The owner there was extremely nice, and I seriously had the best cupcake I have ever had in my life there. It was a great pit stop before we finished the end of the day.

We finally arrived at our host, Santa Fe Christian High School, in Encinitas. It was a beautiful high school that looked more like a college campus in fact. We met the program manager, Stephen Hersey, there. He told us the routine for the next day in San Diego, and we fulfilled all the duties before the final leg of our trip (including cleaning out the vans, cleaning bikes, signing jerseys, etc.). Others got tattoos of the 4K as well. We also intended to stay up quite late since it was our last night together, but I honestly couldn’t survive past 11 PM.

Anyway, we woke up the next morning, jerseys on and ready to go to breakfast at the luxurious time of about 8 AM. We took our final group photo and did one of our most powerful dedication circle, then headed out in a large group for our 17 mile day to San Diego at around 9:30 or so. Besides the 2 mile incline at a 15% grade, the ride was not bad at all. It was a very loud ride, with all of us screaming chants through busy streets and causing quite the ruckus. Here are some pictures:

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We also went through some rich areas, which is why you can see the lamborghini in the picture on the right.

Our destination that day specifically was Mission Beach, but we stopped at Mission Bay park to gather as one large group beforehand.

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At around 11:50 AM, we rode together for about 1 mile and showed up at Mission Beach to meet all our friends and family! It was a very emotional, exciting time.

After all that finished, we made our way to the beach to get our diplomas, flags, and say some positive things about a teammate we were assigned. It was a great bonding time for the group, and also a great way to wrap up the journey. This is me talking about one of our ride directors, Eric Knapp:

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After all this, we did the cheer one last time. It was probably the loudest and most passionate we had ever been. Here’s a picture:

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Next, it was finally time to dip our tires, or our bikes, in the Pacific! We dipped our back tires in the Atlantic Ocean, and it was finally time to mark the end of the journey in the Pacific. It was a very exciting time. Here are some more pics:

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My cousins also surprised me on the beach as well! I had no idea they’d be coming, and I was so happy to see them:

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For this day, I had quite a few dedications:

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First was my grandma. She passed away last year from throat cancer, but she was the motivation for my ride. She inspired me the whole way through, and to start and finish the ride with her is what I intended for the trip. I am sure she is proud of all our work as well.

I also dedicated my ride to my mom, dad, and brothers. They were the biggest support team of mine, and made everything I could do possible.

Lastly, I dedicated my ride to Team San Diego. They provided me with such a great summer, and I really met some wonderful people. Biking across the country is not easy, but when there are such great people on your team, you are motivated to finish. I will keep all these friends for life, and I am eager for the next time I get to see them.

This summer was probably the craziest summer I have had yet. Between storms, 120 mile days in 115 degree heat, and some of the most fun days I have had with great friends, I will remember this summer for the rest of my life. Biking across the country has given my the mental, physical, and emotional strength to be able to pursue almost anything in my life. I am so glad 4K has supplied me with this skillset and an opportunity that I will cherish forever.

Thanks for tuning into my blog this trip! I know I wasn’t too frequent about it, but I highlighted everyday of the trip. I hope I may have inspired some of you to pursue similar endeavors!

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From Flagstaff, AZ, to Santa Monica, CA … Day 67!

Well, it is Day 67 and officially our last rest day! Time has flown by like crazy, and we are on our last state! Before I start talking about the whole coast to coast thing, let me tell you about the last several days.

The day we left Flagstaff was crazy. Our destination was Prescott, AZ, and the hills we had were absolutely crazy. We started the day at 7000 feet, descended to around 4000 in 20 miles, then climbed back up to 7000, then back down to about 5000 over the course of the day. The first picture you see below is going down the mountains in Sedona, AZ. It is just outside Flagstaff, and we were cruising down these at a good 25 to 30 mph. Very exciting! However, going down also comes with going up. Later in the day, the heat hit us hard as we started to climb what was called Mount Mingus. The second picture you see below is of the town, Jerome on the side of this mountain. It was about a 20 mile climb with consistent 7% to 8% grade hills, but I climbed those hills at the fastest speed I have climbed in my life. It was probably the hardest I pushed myself this trip, and me and another friend cruised up the mountain at a consistent 10 to 11 mph. We got to the top, and it was one of the most rewarding feelings being back up at 7000 feet again, after starting even lower than 3000 feet. However, the weather also took a turn. The temperature dropped to the point of me needing a jacket, and as we were going back down the mountain, rains hit us near the bottom, which turned into a thunderstorm forcing us to stop at a church along the way. We eventually waited the storm out and made it to Prescott, but the climbs and weather that day threw everyone for a spin. Luckily, we had a great host and food at Prescott Life Church, and even met the Pastor there whose son attends school in South Dakota! It’s really a small world.

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Leaving Prescott, we made our way to Wickenburg, AZ. I was actually in the food van that day, but the descent we made was crazy! We dropped to an elevation of about 2000, and here is one pic of us descending a mountain in our van:

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It was a really cool view. The weather also started getting really hot here. We knew we had to start preparing for the blistering heat in the next few days. We stayed at a church in Wickenburg as well, called “The Place Christian Church.” We had a very hospitable host who provided us with both lunch and dinner, and we got mail here too! I received this wonderful card from my brother, Alex, which really made my day:

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The next day, wake up call was at 3:45 AM. We needed to beat the heat, which meant leaving at sunrise (5:30 AM). It was a 115 mile day, and the high that day reached 115 degrees (heat index)! It was honestly pretty miserable. Or the most miserable day as far as weather goes. Once the temperature hit 102 degrees at about 11:15, we knew we were in for some trouble. Many got in the van to avoid heat exhaustion, but many others who were in better shape decided to endure the ride. I luckily was hydrating and energizing well that day, so I stayed on the road. We made water stops shorter and shorter distances until they were just 6 miles apart at the end of the day. It felt like we were really in an oven. And, considering preheat starts at 115 degrees in an oven, this was actually pretty accurate. Part of what made me endure the ride was my dedication for that day, George Ransom.

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He is the father of one of my brother’s friends who is struggling with cancer, and after hearing about his story and seeing how much my brother’s friend was appreciative of me, I knew I could finish, especially for a person who couldn’t cop out of this cancer situation.

So, we finished the day, and we made it to the beautiful town of Parker, AZ! It was right on the Colorado River, and the sights we saw as we finished that day made our ride worth it as well. The next day, we had a rest day, and we went to Lake Havasu. This is a beautiful lake where we were able to relax for the day:

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Later in the day, we actually went cliff jumping at a place called Crystal Cliffs in Lake Havasu. It was very enjoyable, with cliffs as high as 100 or more feet (which nobody on our team jumped off of). However, one friend jumped off a 60 foot cliff and actually lost his GoPro in his effort to take a video of his own jump! We searched around for it and asked the locals to keep an eye out, but his loss is very unfortunate since he is the most active GoPro user on the team and has many great photos on his SD card. However, he posted his loss to Reddit, got more than 700 upvotes, and has a group of people saying they will search for it with scuba gear. Maybe it will turn up!

From Parker, we made our way into our last state, California! This is me in front of a sign that wasn’t the state sign, but told us we were in Cali (since we were on an Indian reservation):

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Our first city on the list was Blythe. The route that day rode right along the Colorado River, and for some reason, some people in our group were pressed on tubing down the river to get to our host. We would find a good spot to get in, blow up some inner tubes that we eventually bought, put our bikes on two of them, then float down. It would work so well, right?? Thing is, floating 20 miles down a river will take no less than 20 hours. That was simply time we did not have. So, we bought tubes, but did not use them for that. Anyway, that night, my parents graciously donated dinner to the whole team! We stayed at a hotel that night, since we did not have a host, and the restaurant we ate at was literally a 15 second walk from there. It was a very filling meal. Here’s the group I ate with:

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The next morning, we left to Brawley, CA. This is a picture of the town, with Jackie, my teammate that day, riding into it. It is a rather small town, but we had a great home stay there! We stayed with a wonderful family that hosted the team last year too. We got great meals, all of our laundry was done (so grateful for that), and had some great conversations with the hosts as well.

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After Brawley, we went to Palm Springs. This would be the first city that would look more California-like! However, our group barely missed the most terrible storm in the past 6 years (for real). Yet, other groups actually got caught in a terrible flood! One group even had to hitchhike to the host! It was a crazy day, but when we arrived, we got free Starbucks, then a half-off movie ticket to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, then free Coldstone! It was a great night. This is a characteristic pic of our ride that day:

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We also passed through Coachella (the location of the infamous music festival) that day:

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The next day, we rode into Rancho Cucamonga. The beginning of the trip was tough. The wind was right in our face and we were going uphill for the first 20 miles. Then, I broke my first spoke of the trip, and we were held up at the first water stop for a good 20 extra minutes! But oh well. My riding group was good that day, the last half was pretty much downhill, and we made it to a great host that was situated right in front of the mountains.

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That night, we went to a house that was owned by a family friend of one of my team members. She was such a nice person, provided us with great showers, shampoo, a pool, and what seemed like endless fruit, crackers, and cheese. Here is her backyard:

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Her husband was also a prostate cancer survivor! It was so nice being at a home and meeting wonderful people.

I also dedicated this day to Syria. For peace there, for the safety of family there, and for an end to such a terrible, destructive conflict.

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I love the country, and I want to be able to go back. I know it isn’t related to cancer, but it is something I am keeping in my thoughts and prayers.

The next morning, we set out to Santa Monica! This is a suburb of LA. It was all city riding. We also went downhill the whole day. This was honestly a great ride. I had a great riding group, saw some great sights, and had a great time on my bike! Here are some pictures:

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It was a beautiful ride on a beautiful day, and was only about 55 miles. We arrived at Santa Monica Catholic Church in the afternoon, napped, then went to look at the Pacific Ocean, which was just a few blocks from where we were staying. I realized once we got there, that the coast to coast adventure was essentially complete! We started in the Atlantic on June 1, and I was staring at the Pacific Ocean on August 6. Time flew by, and even though we are not quite done with the trip, it was so amazing to see the Pacific Ocean. Here is a picture I took:

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That night, we explored Santa Monica a bit. We went down to the pier:

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which we walked to on Ocean Avenue:

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I don’t know if you guys know the song “Ocean Avenue” by Yellowcard, but that street was definitely it. So cool!

I also wanted to mention another dedication I had during this stretch. I dedicated a day to my dad’s uncle, Abboud, who is a cancer survivor. Throughout the course of this trip, I have learned of people close to me who have struggled and fought with the disease, and I am so happy and inspired to be riding for such strong people!

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Finally, today we had our last service day of the trip, and it was at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. We talked to outpatients receiving chemo therapy about our trip and cause in small groups, and it was so inspiring to hear such amazing people speaking with us. The patients were so much more joyful than I thought, and one even donated $40 to me from his bed! It was great to see how cheerful and appreciative they were, and how they made the best of their situations. Later, we went around to some shops, and then took an evening bike ride near the shore (and also witnessed a teammate get the first 4K tattoo of the trip!). I honestly love this place, and am so glad we are here as a team. It is going to be sad to part ways in the end, but the journey was life-changing. Anyway, I’ll save that stuff for the last blog post from San Diego or some time around then. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

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From Colorado to New Mexico to Arizona, Day 57

Hello everybody! Yes, a little has happened since Taos. Wait, nevermind, a lot has happened. I have more than 20 pictures to show you that tell quite a cool story. Let’s check em out.

After Taos, we went to Alamosa, CO. One of our hosts from Taos, named Bob, was such a cool guy. He was the manager of the tennis club we stayed at, and in the morning, he joined us for the first 15 or so miles. With him, we were cruising! He pushed us to 24 or 25 mph, but it felt good to be going race pace. Our first stop with him was a gorge right outside Taos. It was a canyon that had the Rio Grande in the center. Here is a pic:

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It was unbelievable seeing that big of a slip in the land. Not too long later, we stopped by a community completely powered by solar power. They only pay $100 a year for utilities! Here the sign outside their community:

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Here is a picture of us with Bob!

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He is wearing red. Such a nice guy and friendly with everyone. We got to Alamosa, and after we quickly ate, we went to Great Sand Dunes National Park, just outside Alamosa:

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It felt like we weren’t even in the USA! The views were spectacular.

The next day, we made our way to Pagosa Springs, CO. This was one of the most hectic days on the trip. I was actually in the food van for this stretch, which meant I had to help secure some food donations for lunch (which we succeeded in. Burritos for days). This day involved going through the Rocky Mountains, up to an elevation of 11,600 feet. It was through Wolf Creek Pass, and here are some pictures:

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As you can tell, it felt like we were in paradise, until about 2 hours after these pictures were taken. A torrential hail storm hit the mountain, forcing riders to find shelter, stay in random cars, or just get off the road. I helped rescue some riders and shuttle them back to the host, considering the temperature dropped to just below 40 degrees, and many were only at the top of the mountain, with about 20 miles left.

The storm did subside, and we warmed up by going to some hot springs! Natural pools that ranged from about 96 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit! It was really cool sitting in there, and one random person we met even made a $200 donation to our team! Things like that really make me appreciate the kind of people we stumble into along the way. Though the hot springs were cool and great for our skin, the sulfur content in them made all our swimsuits and towels smell like rotten eggs! Oh well, you win some you lose some.

The next day, we made our way to Durango, CO. I dedicated my day to a friend of friend from St. Olaf who is struggling with cancer now. Although I don’t know her, she will be going back into treatment at the end of July. So, I wrote her name on my calves!

This was a cool little town of about $10,000 people. We got there somewhat early, even after numerous flat tires by one person in our group. We explored downtown and even had some great Coldstone at night. Here are some pictures from that day:

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The next day, we made our way back into New Mexico. We were finally out of the mountains! Though they were tough, they were absolutely beautiful and I loved Colorado. We stayed at a Catholic Church in a little town called Shiprock in New Mexico. We had some great grilled food, air mattresses, and got to explore the famous Shiprock (shown below)!

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We also saw the famous Four Corners National Park that day! This meant that we went to the point where the borders of Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and the New Mexico meet at one corner. Here is me awkwardly in all four states:

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We had an amazing breakfast the next morning, then made our way to Chinle, Arizona! This was our first real entry into the Navajo Nation of Arizona. It was definitely different, since they were much poorer, independent areas. Places much of the team was not used to. However, the scenery we have been seeing was absolutely beautiful! This specific day was personally the most difficult. We climbed Buffalo Pass, which crossed a mountain that involved a climb of more than 2000 feet in 8 miles, with some category 1 hills. Here are some pictures from the ride:

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The first pictures is actually the mountain before we crossed it, and the last picture is me on top of it! Most of the middle pictures are some of the rock formations we saw going down the hill. We had to make some stops, and the slope was a 14% grade! Essentially, if we didn’t press our brakes, we could easily have hit 60 mph. However, with the switchback turns going down the mountain, this definitely would not have been a good idea!

We finally arrived in Chinle that evening, and immediately went to a Burger King to get smoothies. It was more than a 12 hour day for us, and we were exhausted. We rested up, and made our way to Kayenta, AZ, the next day. This was also on the Navajo Indian Reservation, and we had homestays that day. This meant we stayed with individuals willing to host small groups of us for the night.

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The left pictures are the rooms we stayed in, and the right picture is us with our wonderful host, who cooked us a great breakfast and even gave us cherry slushies and a roast beef and rice dish at around 10:30 PM that night! That same evening, we also visited Monument Valley National Park, which was absolutely captivating. Below is a picture:

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The next day, we made our way to Page, AZ, for our rest day (another time change!). It was a 100 mile day, and though the first 20 miles were windy, and even a bit chilly, we ended the day with 102 degree heat and hills like no other. The desert is crazy! However, we made it there, and it was really beautiful. It was the location of Lake Powell, a beautiful, man made lake that was formed by redirection of water from the Colorado River by a dam. It gives more than 5 million people electricity from the surrounding areas. Here are some pictures. The first is from our route that day, and the second is from Lake Powell itself:

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Also part of Lake Powell is a section called Horseshoe Bend, which is an amazing rock formation in the water. We visited that the day we got there:

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The next day, we went to the Grand Canyon! We wanted to see it at sunrise, so we got up at 3:00 AM, left by 3:30, and got there by around 5:30 or 6:00 AM. It was absolutely beautiful. I cannot even describe the size of the canyon, it was so big! Here are some pictures:

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After this wonderful rest day, we made our way to Tuba City, AZ, which actually took place yesterday . This was also part of the Navajo Indian Reservation. The ride that day involved almost all uphill climbs for the first part of the day, but pretty much downhill for the rest of the day. Once we arrived, we stayed at a boarding school, which meant getting our own dorm rooms and beds! I was really the only one who stayed in a dorm room, since they were quite hot. I thought they would cool up. Ya, they didn’t. Oh well. I had a nice, comfy bed, and I also woke up 15 minutes before everyone else and did an ab workout (though I got about 4.5 hours of sleep).

This morning, we set out to Flagstaff, AZ. We officially left the Indian Reservation, and the route went back into a mountain range! Here is a picture before entering it:

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Flagstaff is actually at an elevation of 7000 feet, meaning we had a lot of climbing to do! There was also a bad headwind today, leaving our pace less than 12 mph for most of the day, even though I was with strong riders. Yet, we finally made it into Flagstaff, which is actually a beautiful, green town (which is something you don’t really see in dry, red rock Arizona)! We are staying in a nice YMCA tonight, and I am typing on a desk in a “Teen Zone.” We have less than 2 weeks left on this trip, and I can’t believe it’s almost over. I will try to blog soon, so stay posted. Thanks everybody!

 

 

 

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Day 47: Taos, New Mexico

I am blogging from the future because I am so behind in my blog like usual. So, I will tell you everything that has happened up until Day 47 (since this I am actually living in Day 49), when we were in New Mexico! A city called Taos to be exact.

I have quite a lot to fill in since Lampasas! The first place we went after Lampasas was called Brownwood. This is a picture of a cool scene on our route there. Unfortunately, I took the picture as we were changing a flat, the second within 15 miles, in addition to two broken spokes in our group within the same time span.

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As I recall, the route was extremely hilly. Only three people were in my group:, Kenny, and me. We are all strong riders, so despite the crappy road and rolling hills, we were still cruising at an average of about 18 or 19 mph, even up hills!  It was quite a small town, and really that’s all I am saying at the time! After we left Brownwood, we visited Winters, TX. An even smaller town of about 2000 people, it was quite an interesting experience. Here is a picture of the bulk of the town.

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The place where we spent most of our time and had dinner was the combination of a diner, a movie/music store, liquor store, and computer outlet. Here are some pictures for summary.

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Looking past my friends Kirk and Max, you can see it is quite the store. This seems to be the place in town to get all one’s basic needs. Coming from South Dakota, I could understand this small town feel. Many of the people on our trip were pretty shocked to see how “backward” this town seemed to be, as far as advancement goes. Yet, the hospitality really was great. We got to order whatever we wanted off the diner menu for free, and we actually stayed in houses for the night in small groups of about 5, with laundry done by our individual hosts. I stayed in a house of a very nice woman who let us sleep on her couches and guest beds, along with doing our laundry once it got too late. We watched Castaway while we relaxed there, and overall, I would say it was a good night. The next day, we set out for Snyder, TX. Here is a picture of the route away from Winters.

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In this picture are Lauren in the neon and Jeremy and Lauren farther up front. As we started getting farther west, it became flatter, and the fields were so open. The weather became drier, as well as the soil. The sky also seemed to become bigger because of the extreme openness. Snyder was also one of those towns with really not that much in it. However, we did have an awesome dinner of burgers and Blue Bell ice cream! After Snyder came Lubbock, TX. Texas Tech University is here, and it was really cool staying in a college town. We stayed in a church literally right next to campus, so we were within walking distance of all of it. Shortly after we arrived, we were taken to Texas Tech field for showers and dinner. Here is a picture:

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The second day was our service day! We went to a YWCA, where we made cards with kids to give to young cancer patients. It was really great to see how enthusiastic all the kids were and how much they looked up to us. Here is a picture of me with some of those kids:

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Later that day, we also did some service for the Church we were staying at by sanding and painting some of their picnic tables. Later, we went to Torchy’s Tacos again because it was so amazing in Austin. Instead of the two tacos I got in Austin, though, I got three here. IMG_20140711_182809_500

We left Lubbock the next morning, but I had water van duty with Jeremy. This means that we set up the water stops every 15-20 miles. Jeremy and I tried to make the most out of it, so we attempted to do as many push-ups as possible! We ended at 650 by around 3 or 4 PM, then just passed out for the rest of the day. We also yelled and screamed at people as they came in to keep them motivated, and took many pictures while we were waiting. Here are a few:

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This was also the day that we crossed the border into New Mexico (after 12 days in big ol’ Texas)! Here is Jeremy and I in front of the state sign: Standing in front of New Mexico Sign 2

We rolled into our Church for the day in Clovis, NM, which was more like a hut. It seemed like there was a very immediate change as we went into New Mexico, since many of the buildings were adobe, traditional-like and it became much drier. Yesterday, we had an 85 mile day into Tucumcari, NM. The scenery today was absolutely beautiful:

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This last picture that was taken was right before a gravel road we took. Unfortunately, the gravel road turned out to last for 16 miles. After about an hour and a half of bumpy, slow riding, and soar hands later, we finally made it back onto pavement. It looked like there might be a storm behind us, so we tried to book it into a vicious wind until Route 66 (fortunately, there was a stretch where the wind was at our backs. We cruised at around 27 mph for almost the whole way on flat ground!). We hit the historic route 66, which took us right into Tucumcari. This is quite a small town as well, with a very 1950s feel. Here is a picture:

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During the ride to Tucumcari, we maybe saw about 10 cars total. We were in the middle of nowhere for much of it, and it was very hot and dry. No cell phone service for many miles at a time, and the sky and land seemed to engulf us. Really made me feel small on this earth, but also appreciate nature and the beauty of this country. Yesterday was quite the day. We rode to Las Vegas, NM (no, not the actual Las Vegas), and that was literally the closest actual town sitting at 107 miles away. Here’s the catch: we were climbing uphill essentially the whole day. As I heard, we had about 4000 feet of climbing, which meant we were really going uphill for the majority of the time. The roads were not the best, and we were riding into a wind the whole time. I would say it was my toughest day yet, and I think a lot of my teammates agree. Despite how tough the ride was, it definitely was the most scenic! Pictures are below:

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The views were absolutely terrific. The last two pictures were actually taken about 75% of the way up our steepest and longest climb of the day. We were going up a mountain face for three miles! Below is a picture of us coming into Las Vegas down a mountain. Las Vegas was right below what looked like the start of the Rocky Mountains! It was really great seeing we had already made it that far.

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I also dedicated this day to my two brothers, Andrew and Alex. They are such and great people in my life, and I love them to death. It was great inspiration on such a tough day! IMG_20140714_063519_734

Also not shown here (because I could not get the picture from a friend’s phone), is a picture of my calves when I dedicated my day to a friend named Maggie from St. Olaf. Unfortunately, she suffered major injuries from an accident with a bus while running in Spain. She is recovering now, but her brain injuries are taking a toll on her. I continually pray for a quick recovery for her, and dedicating a day to her was the least I could do during this trip. On Tuesday, we rode into Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is the capital of New Mexico, and is a city of about 70,000 or 80,000 people. I personally thought it was much bigger than that, but the size did not take away from how cool the city was. However, before telling you about the city, let me tell you about the ride. Below are some pictures:

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The above picture describes the general scenery we saw, and the bottom shows us riding into Santa Fe. You can see the Rocky Mountains in the background.

The day was only about 72 miles, but I personally thought it was one of our toughest days yet. After riding 107 miles almost all uphill from the day before, dealing with vicious headwinds while being trapped in a wind tunnel between the mountains, experiencing lower oxygen levels due to altitude, and climbing some crazy hills, we were all exhausted and frustrated throughout much of the ride.

However, even though the ride was tough, I tried really hard to stay positive. Although it was difficult at times, I knew I needed a strong, positive mindset to finish the ride. The latter half of our day turned out to be a bit easier, but we ended up arriving at the wrong address for our host! We biked 4 miles to get to our real host, and we arrived to a big lunch, donuts, and Jermey’s birthday celebration. He ate the biggest donut I have ever seen from Dunkin Donuts by himself, and the end of the riding day really seemed to cheer everyone up.

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After all this, we swam at the recreation center where we were staying, then visited downtown Santa Fe. It was a really artsy, lively scene, and a live band was playing in the central area down there (which happens every day in the summer!). Below are some pictures:

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It was a really relaxing night, but since we had a 9:45 curfew for the host we were staying at, we were all in bed by 10:15.

The next morning, many people went hiking in some of the mountain trails at about 7:00 AM, but I decided to rest my body and take it easy for the day, especially since some pretty difficult days were coming up. I hung out with some people with similar mindsets about resting up, we visited REI and Starbucks in the morning, then had Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch. That night, I went downtown and once again visited some shops and had some good New Mexican dinner. Overall a great rest day!

The next day, we rode into Taos, New Mexico. This had to be one of my favorite rides. The scenery was absolutely amazing! Here are some pictures from when we were in Santa Fe and on our way out:

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The mountains in the background were absolutely beautiful! I dedicated today to my grandfather on my dad’s side. His name is Alexander and he died from brain cancer before I was born. Although I didn’t know him, from the stories my dad has told me about them and how he made me think of my dad, aunts, and uncles, it pushed me through today!

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Going out of Santa Fe, we had an eagle’s eye view from the top of a mountain:

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It was extremely scenic. But our route into Taos was even more astounding. We actually ended up missing a crucial turn, so we took a different route than the rest of the group (which supposedly had an even more scenic route! Although, theirs was the hilliest yet). We ended up riding through a canyon. Here are some pics:

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After riding through the canyon, we climbed a HUGE hill to the top of one of the mountains. However, the top had an amazing view. We actually rode right along the Rio Grande the whole time, and we saw a split in the land at the top that looked like a huge gorge. If you look in the picture below, you can find this gorge in the middle. It looks like a river, but it actually drops off:

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Once we arrived into Taos, I took this picture:

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It had a great view of the mountain range in the background, and had an old mudhouse feel to it. It’s a really cool place! Moreover, we are currently staying at a tennis resort! I am about to have what was claimed to be the best dinner (New Mexican food) by last year’s San Diego team. I am getting excited. Thanks for reading such a long post!

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Austin, and Lampasas, TX. Day 36.

Well, we are officially over halfway done with this trip! We have biked over 2000 miles, and I absolutely can’t believe it. Last few days have been pretty hectic with the 4th of July and a rest day in Austin, along with a surprise hair do. The pictures below will tell my story.

 

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July 4th. We rode from La Grange, to Austin, TX, and it was quite the ride! We got up at 4:00 AM, our earliest wake up time yet, and we arrived at our host around 2:00 PM. The real kicker of this ride, though, was how we dressed. We all decked ourselves out in America gear (america bandana, underwear over the chamois, and just a general wrangler look). Many also decked out their bikes as well. It was really patriotic! Go America. We almost did this, but decided not to make the investment of overalls:

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We still look pretty American in this picture though. Really wish we could have used these beautiful pieces of clothing found at a designer store you may have heard about: Le Walmart.

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Above is another pic from the ride that day, specifically after climbing the hardest hill I had ever climbed in my life. We knew we were in for a treat when the alumni that chose to ride the last 20 miles with us told us that there was a gigantic *expletive* hill right before the host. Likely a category 3 hill, and involved some of the most strength and mental/physical endurance I have needed for like 5 minutes of climbing. On the plus side, we had a beautiful view of the hill country of Austin, TX from the top. We were just about a third of  a mile out from our host at this point, and we were very excited for the rest day in Austin ahead of us.

We got to our hosts, who lived, in a very nice house, and had a chance to relax for a bit. They were Indian, and as I learned later, famous for their activism and community service work. Very passionate people and very committed to their beliefs and values. It was great talking to them and learning more about who they were.

At around 5:00 PM, I was very fortunate to have my Aunt Noha pick me up and take me to her house for dinner in Austin. Finally, I got some homemade Arabic food: grape leaves, kibbeh, and much more. I also got a GoPro clamp and many other necessary materials from Ibrahim. I was very fortunate to meet them in the area. It was also great to catch up with my cousins – Amanda, Dina, and Lana. They are all older than me, but they told me about fun things to do in Austin, and I also got to look through some old photos of myself and even my dad in his younger days! I am very thankful for my stay with them.

At around 8:30, Dina and Amanda took me back to the host, where I went with the rest of the group to 6th street, the famous street within Austin. It was the Fourth of July, a Friday night, and just a generally awesome time. Even though we visited Bourbon Street on a Wednesday, I think 6th street kicks Bourbon Street out of the water. Here is a picture I took there:

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After getting about 5 hours of sleep that night, we woke up and left to the Livestrong headquarters, where we were very fortunate to get a tour of the building and learn about the great things Livestrong stood for, especially in the fight against cancer. Here are some pics:

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The bottom pic is a wall that everyone signs that essentially stays at the Livestrong headquarters. We saw the signature from last year’s San Diego team and signed for ourselves as individuals and as a team. We also signed for Jamie Roberts, the girl from the Portland team who passed away during the ride. It was a great place to connect our goals and values with Livestrong’s.

After we left Livestrong and went back to the host, I immediately fell on my sleeping pad and took a 2 hour nap. I woke up to watch the end of the first day of the Tour de France (a 118.5 mile day finished in 4 hours 45 minutes), and became very inspired by the riders there. We cleaned the vans, had lunch, relaxed a bit, then left back into Austin to take advantage of our day there.

We went to Zilker Park, a beautiful park in downtown, where we were able to swim, rope swing, and generally hang out and have a good time. Afterward, we filled our starving stomachs with an Austin favorite: Torchy’s Tacos. The picture of the place is below. Honestly, the best tacos I have ever had. That place will forever hold its goodness in my heart.

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We left to go to Amy’s Ice Cream, another Austin favorite, afterward. The ice cream was very good, but the atmosphere was very weird. It was very psychedelic, and upon asking if I could try a sample, the worker mesmerizingly looked me in the eye and said, “You can have as many samples as you want.” I knew I had to eat my ice cream and get out of there. Anyway, once we left, I was able to capture a beautiful picture of Austin’s downtown before it got dark. Really gave a view of what we were experiencing:

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we went back to the host, where we learned about our 5:00 AM wake-up call, which prompted me to try to get in bed early. So much for that. Midnight it was.

Anyway, this morning, we only had a 58 mile day ahead of us, so it wasn’t too bad. Yet, we did ride over some rolling hills and experience some beautiful scenery. We got to our host early, and were able to really take advantage of the day. I even went on a run, then to a natural spring, which Lampasas is well known for. We went back, ate dinner, then made one of the best decisions of our lives: getting a haircut. The result is below:

Mohawk in Texas

Everyone is generally approving of this cut, so I will keep it for now! Very excited about the past few days. It has been a great trip so far, and if you want to talk more with me about it, just shoot me a text or call me!

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From Pensacola to La Grange, TX. Day 33 y’all.

Well, as I say every single time I blog, it’s been a while since I have blogged. But, I will do my best to recap what has happened since Pensacola Beach (quite a lot). I have been lately choosing sleep over blogging, but really I just am a little lazy after biking some miles. Anyway, here are some pictures!

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These are pictures of Alabama. The top is us riding into Mobile and the bottom is just a nice pic of the countryside. Overall, the state was quite hilly, and gave us some tough rides, but it was quite scenic!

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This is me standing in front of the Mississippi state sign. I am not really sure why I am posing like this, but I did not really know what to do with my hands I guess. This is where the humidity really started getting bad. However, we did ride on essentially flat roads and next to the coast a lot of the time. This did provide for some windy days, though. A picture below is me showing a confused tourist where an unfamiliar object is on the water on a Mississippi beach. Really, it’s just my friend, Kevin.

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After Mississippi came Louisiana! Here are some pictures:
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I am again not sure what I am doing in front of the Louisiana state sign, but I did not know what to do with my hands. The pictures right below that one is us about 30 miles away from New Orleans! Before I post some pictures there, I just want to say that Louisiana’s roads are quite awful. I got my first flat in Louisiana, and there are multiple roads that even a car would get destroyed on due to the inhumane amount of cracks and holes. Anyway, below are some pictures from our rest day in New Orleans!
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Although rather dark, this is a picture of my friend, Aaron, and I standing on Bourbon Street! The night we rolled into New Orleans, we made a trip to this famous street and had some fun hanging out here at night. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain, but that did not stop us from enjoying our time there!

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The next morning, we went to the French Quarter and hung out there for the day. The above pictures are from there. For brunch, we went to the famous Café du Monde and had some beignets and coffee. Then, we went to the Market Café to stuff our faces with more brunch food. I could barely move after, but we quickly got up and walked around to visit some shops set up in the area. I bought a New Orleans shirt and tried bargaining for some sunglasses (cutting the price down by a whole dollar!).

Later, we wandered around more and found ourselves in the midst of a makeshift jazz band near a church in the area. The second picture above is part of our group in front of that church. It was quite a scenic area! In fact, just in front of that Church are some concrete steps where we ate ice cream and passed out for a nap for about 1 hour.

The last picture is the house of blues in the French Quarter, which was mainly just a cool, jazzy area to walk around in. We really got the whole bluesy, jazz scene in New Orleans, and I honestly loved it.

Below are some pictures of my personal highlight of the night, a dinner cruise on the Mississippi River, exhibiting to us downtown New Orleans!
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After learning about some confusion with what we were able to eat for dinner that night, we decided to pay for this dinner cruise (price was cut in half for us, because we were doing the ride for cancer), and have some amazing food and see some amazing views!

I was honestly ready to get out of Louisiana, though. The humidity there was even worse than Mississippi, and it was constantly raining/storming. Our ride from our last stop in Louisiana into Beaumont, TX, turned out to be quite the trek, though! Originally, the day was supposed to be 97 miles until our next host in Beaumont. A long day, but definitely something we were capable of. However, after riding 12 miles past a necessary turn on our route, we were in for a lot more miles! Some decided to shuttle back to our original location in the van, but me, Brad, and Tyler decided we wanted to ride our bikes the whole day. After all, I knew the ride this summer was going to be challenging, there were going to be some unforeseen circumstances, and I was riding for my mom and dad that day! They would noy “cut it short” for me, and anybody dealing with cancer cannot avoid unforeseen circumstances.

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So, we gave ourselves about 100 oz. of water each, carried a frame pump, extra tubes, sunblock, and food, and called ourselves “unsupported” for the day. Our goal was to catch up and overtake the rest of the pack.

About 12 miles later, we ended up passing many of the groups stopped at the lunch stop, and astonishingly finished first for the day! We averaged about 17 or 18 mph for the day (which slowed to 15 or 16 mph in the wind), but the final mileage amounted to 118.5 miles, my longest day yet!

Here is the ever important picture in front of the state sign for Texas. I honestly could not believe we were pretty much in the middle of the country.

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Here is also a bridge we rode over, which was probably about a mile incline to get to the top! We actually ended up getting pulled over by a cop halfway up, who thankfully escorted us for the rest of the length of the bridge, since bridges like this can be a bit dangerous to ride over.

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We finally arrived in Beaumont after the long day to some awesome hosts. It was a Methodist Church, and many members of the church were eagerly waiting outside to cheer us on as we arrived. We ate some great pasta dishes and Blue Bell ice cream, and got free massages from a masseuse who graciously gave them to our aching muscles! They also provided us with beer, snacks, and pure hospitality for the rest of the night.

We set out the next day for Houston, where we also had very hospitable hosts. After quite a hectic day with mechanical problems, we arrived at an Episcopal Church to a member of the Church ready to take us to his beautiful home for a nice shower. It was my first shower in an actual house for quite a while, and boy did it feel nice. We also got a great taste of some good Tex Mex food. They also had Blue Bell ice cream for us! I wish we could have stayed longer there, but we had to keep moving.

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The next morning, we set out from Houston. The pastor from the Church blessed our bikes and said a prayer before we left for our 67 mile day with a Houston Fox News reporter and cyclist to Navasota, TX. As it turned out, that was our most efficient and mechanical-problem-free day yet! We did not take too long at the water stops, and ended up making it to our host, a Baptist Church, at around 1:45 PM! We had almost the whole day to go to a bike shop near Texas A&M University, a target to try to unsuccessfully find American flag shorts for our Fourth of July ride to Austin, and even go to a DQ at night for some ice cream.

Today, our ride was from Navasota to La Grange, TX. The ride was beautiful. We again had a prayer said upon us before we left, and we rode through the heart and birthplace of Texas. Here are some pictures:

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Today was quite hot. At one point, the heat index was 100 degrees! Yet, it was only 65 miles and we made it here by around 2:20 PM. The hills are now back, though, after a week of relatively flat roads! Yet, in my opinion, hills do make the route a bit more exciting and had at to the element of surprise that one after crossing a hill big enough that it obstructs all view of the countryside behind it.

Well, that’s what I have for now! I’ll try to blog more frequently, but make sure to comment with any questions or anything like that. Thanks for reading!

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Day 22: Rest Day at Pensacola, Florida

As I am sitting here in a laundromat in Pensacola, Florida, washing my dirty clothes, I figure it is the best time to update y’all on how I am doing! After Carrollton, GA, we crossed the border into Auburn, Alabama, then Troy, Alabama, then Defuniak Springs, Florida, and then finally here in Pensacola. It has been a pretty hectic set of days, and I have many pics to upload, so I will do the best I can!

First, I will include a picture from the last blog post that I never uploaded.

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This is in Atlanta. We got to go to an Atlanta Braves game. My first pro baseball game. Honestly, I thought it was a blast. Great time chilling with the team while watching a fun game.

After we left Georgia, we rode into Auburn, Alabama. I rode with some very good cyclists: Brad Buchanan, Matt Dyjack, and Shawna Kleftis. The day originally was supposed to be 85 miles. On the 4K, that number really is tentative. We ended up doing some offroading for 8 miles on a dirt road, messed up with directions about 5 times, and finally rode into Auburn only to circle the campus before getting to our host. It was quite hectic! However, I personally thought the day was quite enjoyable. We employed this technique called a pace line where we switch off who rides in front of the pack so that others can draft behind them. It is efficient for the whole group and allows us to rest our legs while we draft (let the person in front take most of the wind)! However, we ended up going 105 miles, which was 20 over what we expected. It was quite a tiring day. However, Auburn was a really cool place. Beautiful campus, bumping college town, and an overall lively atmosphere. Definitely could feel the fratlife there too with Southern Tide and short khaki shorts dominating the clothing scene among college students.

We left Auburn the next morning to go to Troy, Alabama. That was probably the hottest day we had had so far. It had to have been close to a 100 degrees, and was very hilly at times. It was about 80 miles, but it sure was great getting to the host! We were the first ones there, and after we showered, we got to swim and eat dinner at this beautiful country home:

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It was so nice getting to relax and swim after such a hot day.

Here are some more pictures from that home:

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This is a jacked horse we saw there:

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Also, to our wonderful surprise, we got to eat at an ice cream shop afterward called the Milky Moose, a place featured on the food channel. Here is a taste of that:

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I had quite the Sundae, and it honestly hit the spot. Great pre-ride carb load too, right?

The next day, we started riding into Defuniak Springs, FL. Also a burning hot day. This is a picture of me on a pretty deserted road on the way. If you look closely behind me, that is where one of my teammates peed on the road. Yeah, it was that deserted.

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Below is another picture from that day. Our group ran into quite a bit of troubles. My teammates had numerous flats and mechanical issues, and after taking a 30 minute nap while trying to deal with the 145th flat tire, we decided to go unsupported from the water van. We filled up water at nearby gas stations, got a free slushy donations, and even got free Mexican food donated from a restaurant with a very nice owner! Here is us:

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Toward the end of our ride, we finally crossed the Florida border, with a looming storm over us:

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Literally 1 mile after we crossed the border, it started to pour rain like crazy. We took cover under a shelter, waiting for the the thunder and lightning to subside. I really did not want to get picked up by the van at this point, since we only had 20 miles left and I was riding for my friend, Maggie who is in the hospital in Spain recovering from a serious accident with a bus while she was running. That really gave me the motivation to finish in the fear of the storm. We victoriously arrived at our high school where we stayed and anticipated the next day when we would ride into Pensacola, FL.

For me, I actually rode in the water van to support the riders on this day. It was a bit of a bummer since the ride was so scenic. It was very flat, almost all along the coast, and absolutely beautiful. Here is a pic:

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When we actually got to Pensacola, we hung out and relaxed for the night, but for our rest day, we visited Pensacola beach all day! I swam in the morning, then rented a jet ski with some friends. We later relaxed at a restaurant/bar and went back to our host for the day. Overall, it was a very relaxing day. Here is a pic of a view I had from a restaurant called “Surf Burger.”

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A final picture I want to share is quite meaningful to me and all the 4k family. It is a picture of my calves with the name “Jamie Roberts” written across them. About two weeks ago, this 4k rider for Team Portland was hit by a vehicle and passed away. Although heartbreaking for all of 4K, we really bonded after that accident, and when we got back on our bikes again from Atlanta to Carrolltown, we all dedicated our rides to Jamie.

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She really is a great inspiration for me to continue and finish my cross country journey.

Finally, I chose to dedicate my day riding out of Auburn to my grandma on my mom’s side, Hend. Although I never really knew her since she died shortly after I was born, she still gave me inspiration to continue my ride by simply enable me to think about my own mother. I unfortunately am not able to upload the picture of my calves here due to some technical difficulties, but you get the idea!

Thanks for reading my blog today. I know it is a bit long because I am covering so much, but that is what I have for now. I will update you all soon!

 

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