~Nothing is harder than striving to stay alive.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Last day.

It took me forever to write this post. I just hate that I will not be able to blog anymore after this ride, or rather after this day. A lot of you had asked me about what am I gonna do with my blog after the ride ends, truth is, I have no idea. 72 days (well mine is 74 cause I included the first two days sitting in the train to NYC) of adventure, crazy yet fulfilling. "New York City" is probably one of the most-mentioned words. The looks and reactions we got from people when they heard us saying, "We started off in New York City" are totally unforgettable.

It amazed me so much to as how supportive people are towards Illini 4000. Donations we got from random strangers; food donation from restaurants like Subway, local pizza shops, Chipotle, and our hosts; free stays at churches. All those mean so much to us, and had definitely eased up our journey. I personally want to thank Blue Mountain Hospital in Oregon for helping me so much when I crashed. I'd have freaked out if they weren't that helpful or friendly.

This trip has definitely been an eye-opening experience. I remember the day in Redding, or  "Rockville of the West", as I would call, I had a conversation with this pastor. He said this ride is definitely better than internships because it encompasses qualities like pay attention, teamwork, up to challenges, optimistic mindset, etc. I especially agree with the up to challenges part. Well people who have known me for awhile will know how terrible I am with directions. The first day in the States I couldn't even find my way home. Duh. Everyday we go from city to city, it requires skills to pack things and not lose things; everyday we ride on a route that no one has ridden before, you'll never know what's gonna come up-strong headwind, gravel road, roads with no shoulder, 16% grade of downhill, forest fire; looking for stops with local food-huckleberry ice-cream, Idaho spuds, in-and-out, chocolate milkshake, Casey's pizza, random gas station's potato salad, etc; seeing beautiful places like Twin Falls, Veils something Falls, Niagara Falls, Crater lake, state parks. In only 2.5 months, I believe we have experienced things that normally take people a few months to experience.

I always say I am going to die young, because (if I have enough money) I really would do all of the coolest/dangerous activities. Seeing how people suffer from cancer, I appreciate my life so much more. I know I want to do so many things before I die. I want to travel to many places, connect with the locals, learn their languages, eat local food, immerse myself in their culture. I find it really hard to talk to people I don't know, it takes a lot of effort for me to start and keep a conversation. Seeing how I always "accidentally" collected portraits throughout the trip, I feel as if the God is dropping hint for me and gave me chances to start a conversation with people.

And as much as I feel that being a tiny Asian girl, coming from Malaysia (a country that not many people know of) give me more advantage to share my experience as a Malaysian. I am proud of my country because everyone can speak at least two languages/dialects fluently, and understand many more other languages. I don't remember who asked me this question-"How do you feel being around with 20ish Americans?" Honestly, I really enjoyed having these wondeful people around me. It makes me realize that despite having huge differences in culture, people are generally the same (bell curve lol). There will be people who'll be close with you, and there will be people who will not be as close with you, and that's normal. It's the same as me having some Malaysian friends as close friends, and some not as close. It's just the matter of time and "Chemistry" between me and the other person.

Would I do this ride again next year? I doubt so. I don't want to go to the same places again and not having my teammates with me to share the memories. Would I do another cross-country ride? Maybe, in another country.

Once again, thank you to my ride leader, Ben and my wonderful teammates for being nice and supportive all the time. Thanks to my parents, brother, and bf. Thank you all of the people who have supported me since my fundraising period, making my fundraising a huge success. Thank you to people who have supported me through your kind words-I'm not great, you are, without your support I can't go this far. Thank you to the people we have met throughout the journey for the place to sleep, nice showers, and for feeding us with superb meals. Thank you to everyone who is willing to share their stories with The Portraits Project.

From a nervous and excited start, to a beautiful and happy end, everything that has happened is gonna stay in my memory forever #I4everK

Friday, July 31, 2015

Day 71: Orland to Clear Lake, CA

Date: 7/31/2015
Time: 9.54pm
Weather: Smoky, hot
Location: Grace Church Kelseyville

2 days left. I've finally hit 4000 miles at mile 45 today!

Today was our last century day. I rode with Emmy, Lizzie, Gel, and Khrystyna. The first thing we saw during our ride today was Yolo St. It says too much about what we did in the past 2 months.

Lizzie asked me about what I4k stories I have to share with her. This short conversation we had kinda makes me sad-we are only busy catching up with each other at the end of the ride. We were very close at the beginning of the ride, but somehow we didn't spend that much time with each other starting from Colorado I think. She said, "Jane, we rode together at the beginning of the ride, and now we're riding again at the end of the ride." That makes me really sad.

Emmy is another person that I'll greatly miss. Maybe because we're both international students, maybe because we're both Asians, maybe because we've been to each other's country, Emmy gives me the feeling that she's a person that I can trust since the beginning. It's just the Chemistry between us that makes us click.

We did not complete our century ride though. No one on the team did, but we did the least. We were just taking our own sweet time. We got shuttled at mile 65-right after two big climbs. The other groups were shuttled at mile 85. That's cause we're too far behind and the smoke from the wildfire has gotten way worse than the time that other groups passed. The black smoke covered the whole sky giving very low visibility. There are also ashes flying everywhere, as if they were snowflakes in winter time. As we were passing tbe mountain in the van, we can even see the fire itself. Firefighters were zooming pass us to get there to put out the fire.

The most amazing thing to see was the red sun. I've never seen the sun being this red before!

Day 70: Redding to Orland, OR

Date: 7/30/2015
Time: 9.10pm
Weather: Burning hot
Location: First Lutheran Church

Today was supposed to be one of the best days cause I had a group who has the same aim as me-to enjoy every moment we've left despite the burning hot temperature-44°C. It wasn't that bad with the wind actually.

I woke up and packed my stuffs quick cause I can't find my stuffs last night and I want to find it again in the morning. I looked through everywhere but I still can't find it. I have my medicine, medical bill, bandages, a bunch of souvenirs from Crater Lake, and my phone charger in it. It's so weird-I have a smaller bag of food in that bag, and I could find the food bag but not the outer grocery bag with all those stuffs in it. I'm just so upset and have been bothered by this the entire day.

Today's our I4k Christmas. We did the secret santa draws few days back and knew who should we give our presents to. The rule to this celebration is to pick up anything you see on the side of the road. Tonight after dinner we unwrapped the presents and did short presentation on the gifts we picked. It surprised me much of how many things we are able to find on the side of the road. There were tshirt, plants, and a bunch of road signs and license plates. I have Carrie-so I was gonna give her a "Do Not Cross" sign I found at the rest stop. However Lauraleigh saw it and told me not to do it. -_- then I saw a cute "10 mph" speed limit sign-but I couldn't get it off using my multitool. Gel said I was the worst thief ever cause I don't even care when the cars passed (and might see me trying to steal things). Gel saw a horseshoe for me and I was gonna give it to Carrie. But since I lost all of my souvenir, I'm gonna bring this horseshoe back to Malaysia. Then I got a quarter of a CD for Carrie. I actually felt bad cause i think this is the worst present ever as compared to everyone else's. Sorry Carrie. :/

To sum up today's ride, Gel, Emmy and I were all pretty much like taking our own sweet time. Sam was getting a little impatient towards the end. We stopped at the Human Bean, took forever at the rest stops, then stopped at Shell gas station, and finally stopped at a yard sale before we got to the stayover. Gel had been so excited about Christmas! She told us about her Christmas stories and has been singing Christmas songs all day. I used to rush too-I felt good getting to the stayover early, but now as this ride is ending soon, I just want to spend as much time as possible and actually enjoy the ride. Sagging in the van made me realize how grateful I am to be able to bike again. The heat sucks, yes, especially it burns my scabs and my knee hurts way more when it's hot. To me, none of those things matters as long as I can pedal. Same as eating, I mean a lot people on the team have known about how much I like to eat. I never really appreciate simple thing like this before until I had a sore throat and can't swallow anything, and then I got into accident and I can't eat for 4 days. I have gotten so much better now-I can eat almost everything, as long as I dont bite with my three front teeth. Food like apples, nuts, and granola bar are not really suitable for me. I have to break my food into smaller pieces to eat.

The worst part of the ride today was the smoke from forest fire and the 1.5 miles of gravel road. Other than that everything has been pretty fun!

I just hope that my stuffs will miraculously appear somewhere...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Day 68: Klamath Falls, OR to Mount Shasta,CA

Date: 6/28/2015
Time: 9.24pm
Weather: Hottttt
Location: Hope Community Church

6 days left.

I mentioned that we stayed at a fully-cushioned climbing gym. I had a hard time waking up this morning. Some people are super excited about today's ride cause we're crossing the last border and cruising into California!

As I was packing the van, Gel told me that we're gonna have breakfast at a cafe. We had pancakes and coffee (I had water cause I don't drink coffee). We spent a long time at Gathering Grounds Cafe doing portraits. The owner of the cafe had leukimia at his 20s. One thing I learned from him is that I should just stop worrying about stuffs and live every day happily. I mean, he's having a pretty good life now-owns a cafe in a small town, and talks to customers and all. I'd want to live that life. Actually I started realizing how short life is few years back. So I never really regret the decisions I made-just like biking across the country. It is crazy, but it's definitely the most amazing thing ever.

We left the cafe at about 9am. I heard that the border is at about mile 20. I wasn't sure if my knee was gonna be able to last the entire 82 miles, and I was like I'd definitely be able to make it to the border, if I can't continue, I'll just sag.

It turned out that I was able to finish the whole ride. I was tearing up when I reached the stayover. My knee wasn't fully healed yet. It hurt the most every time when I stopped and started biking again. It takes me quite some time to get into a pace I'm comfortable with. Truth is no matter how good the pace was, my knee hurt, so much. I'm so grateful to have a group who's so patient with me, especially Corinne who always looked out for me. She'd look back every 5 minutes to make sure I'm not gapping too much, check with me if the pace was okay, and would do callouts for everything she saw. Thanks Alex for holding such good pace; thanks Sarah for always asking me if I'm okay; and thanks Shutian too for being patient with my slow pace.

Today had been one of the hardest days I've had cause I'm injured. I thought about a lot of things on my ride today. This whole ride requires more mental strength than physical strength. Pain is just a state of mind. If you think you can do it, you can; and if you think you can't, you can't. I also think that all of the tough time I go through in this ride-hard riding days, terrible weather, injuries, and any other troubles, have shaped me into a much stronger person. From this point on, I think if I face any hardships in the future, this ride will be my source of strength. If I can bike across the country, what else can I not do?

From New York City to California, 3800 miles (I sagged a lot-some people have already hit 4000). The people I met, the scenery I saw, everything means something, something special.

Okay, this post is getting a little emotional. I'm glad that we finally made it to California! The mountains that we passed were very pretty too! The only bad thing about today's ride was that the road was so dusty. I had a thick layer of dust on me by the end of the ride today. The best thing about today's ride beside crossing the California border was the chocolate milkshake at the Hi-Lo cafe 10 miles from the stayover.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Day 67: Crater Lake to Klamath Falls, OR

Date: 6/27/2015
Time: 11pm
Weather: Chilly, Sunny
Location: The Ledge Climbing gym

7 days left. Everyone has been getting pretty emotional at this point. Just cause we're a family and we don't want to be parted.

Today's the first day of my recovery ride. I didn't want to push myself too hard. If the accident happened a month ago, I'd have sagged for two weeks for my knee to heal completely. But now, we have only a week left, it's a race with time. I'm learning not to fear. The mile-17-phobia will always be there in my mind to haunt me. But I know I need to get rid of it, the sooner the better.

I didn't do the downhill this morning. I sagged for the first 24 miles just cause I'm not mentally prepared yet. I hopped on my bike at the rest stop and did 30 miles today. What's better than being able to bike again? We got a portrait 2 miles out of the rest stop!

This guy was driving a car and started talking to Khrystyna. He said he want to do a portrait with us. He sounded like he really wanted us to document his story. He saw us on the newspaper yesterday and waited for us on Hwy 97 but he didn't get to meet us. Just when he thought he had missed us, he met us right at the junction to his house. He got pretty emotional the entire interview. So he felt a back pain  one day and had it checked out. The doctor ran through a MRI scan but never discussed the result with him. He went to a second doctor later, and the doctor did MRI too but still didn't discuss the MRI result with him. He felt weird and took the initiative to read through the reports himself. Then he felt something was wrong with the report, so he went on to a third doctor further away from where he lives in Oregon and the doctor immediately referred him to a urologist. The urologist was super professional-this guy was immediately diagnosed with stage 2 kidney cancer, and had his kidney removed in less than 2 weeks. His message to the public is to do your own things (read the reports) and never rely fully on the professionals. If only he was late for 3 months, he said he wouldn't be here anymore. Well, this is a pretty unique story I've heard/read. I might have messed up some parts of the story so look it up in www.portraitsproject.org sometime later.

Then we continued biking. We passed the Klamath Lake which is super huge and pretty. I wished I've gotten photos of it but I just wanted to stay focused on road. The entire way was pretty flat so it wasn't of much problem for me. The only thing that scared me was the heavy traffic with RVs and trucks on Hwy 97. Thanks to Khrystyna, Lizzie, and Emmy for keeping me safe and staying patient with me today.

I was surprised and excited to find out about our stayover today. We are staying in the Ledge Climbing gym for the very first time. I thought we are gonna stay at a church today. As soon as we arrived, the host was barbecuing some burgers for us , ordered pizza, and got us beers too. The shower here is good too! Guess what?! I showered today and my wound didn't hurt as much as I thought it would be! It had healed so much!

We went to Walmart after, and stopped by the Human Bean for frozen hot chocolate on our way back. It was delicious! The host provided us with dinner too-it was pasta, salad, and garlic bread. Too bad I couldn't eat that much anymore nowadays, cause I can't bite with my front teeth and my mouth is still hurting from the fall.

A massues came by and helped us with massaging. It felt sooooooooo good! I had her massage on my bad knee and she said I might need to get it checked out cause it's still pretty swollen. The bruises are everywhere on my knee. Well like Khrystyna said, "You looked like you had two knees when you fell." Hopefully the swell will go away soon PLEASEEEEE.

Conclusion: I've gotten so much better in terms of healing. Aquaphor is not just useful for saddle sores, but also super helpful for open wound and scabs. For bike stuffs, I've learned to tighten and loosen break pads yay! Zack taught me about this few days back but I just learned more fron Ben today! And I really love Crater Lake!