The 4K for Cancer is as intense as it sounds: 4,000 miles, coast to coast, to raise money for a cure.

Riley (from theBikeDyke) and I met our first year at Mount Holyoke College through Project: Theatre, a student-run organization. We were in multiple plays together during our time there, but my favorite memory of her is from our rehearsals for 12 Angry Men. We were supposed to be building character rapport by looking into each other’s eyes without talking — but we couldn’t do it without laughing. I think we derailed the whole rehearsal.

Mount Holyoke College Class of 2015

Riley and I at our recent 2 year Mount Holyoke College Reunion

Riley also has the travel bug and has biked across America twice on a 4K for Cancer with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

I’ve always been so impressed by this (repeat!) feat, so I had to talk to her about it.

Here’s the deets on the 4K for Cancer:

What made you decide to ride your bike from coast to coast?

There were a number of reasons I wanted to bicycle across the country. The first was just plain old desire for an adventure, which bicycling from Baltimore to Seattle (and then Baltimore to San Francisco) inevitably would be. I spent the summer before my ride living in a cabin in beautiful Acadia National Park, teaching outdoor education to children, and I wanted to spend another summer primarily outdoors.

4k for Cancer Mount Rushmore

Riley and her team mates at Mount Rushmore

The previous year, my childhood best friend’s father had passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer, and I was looking for the most fitting way to honor his life. He loved being out in nature, and I think he would have loved the idea of bicycling 4,500 miles in one summer so I did the 4K for Cancer. The second bike trip was because I had caught the travel by bike bug and needed to do another trip or risk someday selling all my possessions and bicycling from city to city. I’m not sure it was the perfect remedy, as I wish I was on a bicycling trip right now.

How do you train for a cross-country bike ride like the 4K for Cancer?

4k for cancer thebikedyke

An unfortunate rule.

Ideally, you’d train with bike shoes and clip-in pedals so you can get accustomed to clipping in and out (and clipping out BEFORE you hit the brakes). You’d do a few 50-60 mile rides to prepare you for the days that we bicycle up to 115+ miles. You’d get used to drinking water while on the bicycle, become comfortable cruising 40+ miles an hour downhill, and try your hand at not fishtailing on messy gravel roads. I didn’t do any of that. I rode ~8 miles on two flat tires and bought my clips the day before I took off.

How many hours / miles did you cover on a typical day?

4k for cancer thebikedyke

A new state to cross off the list.

It definitely varied day to day. On average, we would cover around 60-70 miles, but could go as high as 120. Somedays, we’d get lucky and only have to cover 30-40 miles. The amount of time really depended on weather, terrain, and luck. One of those 35 miles day was up the steepest mountain I’ve ever bicycled up. That took a lot longer than going 80 miles through flat Nebraska with no headwind. Typically, we’d wake up at 5 or 6 and try to be on the road by 8 to maximize on daylight. We’d bike until it started to get dark, but we never bicycled when it was actually dark out.

How many states did you get to explore on the 4K for Cancer?

4k for cancer thebikedyke

The whole crew in the van.

On my last trip, I believe I went through around 13 states. Some states, you just pass through and others, it feels like you spend lifetimes in. There was a day where we bicycled through four states in total!

On my previous trip, I believe I hit 15 states. It’s a great way to really get to know a place.

What was your favorite state to ride through? Why?

There were so many states I fell in love with!

On my first trip, I was obsessed with Minnesota and Montana. Minnesota has such a friendly atmosphere, it’s just like how people describe, and lots of great coffee. Montana is the most beautiful state I’ve biked through. Bicycling to the top of the Sun Road in Glacier National Park is still one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had.

4k for cancer thebikedyke yellowstone national park

Having a great time at YellowStone National Park

On my last trip, I loved bicycling through Colorado, even though the terrain wasn’t the easiest and the weather wasn’t the nicest. There are so many bicyclists in Colorado, it felt like we were at home. One of my teammates from my first bicycling trip lived in Boulder at the time, so seeing him during my second trip was a really comforting and encouraging thing.

Was there a particular state or area that was difficult to bike through?

4k for cancer thebikedyke tennessee

Welcome to Tennessee!

I think all states have pluses and negatives, but hands down, Tennessee and Missouri were the hardest states to bicycle through. I’ve never had someone point a shotgun at my head while I was bicycling, and now I’ve had it happen twice! Let’s just say that a lot of people in those states are not fan of bicyclists, even though we were literally biking in a straight line on public roads. They seemed to really value their solitude in those places.

Can you tell us about a time when you felt overwhelmed or exhausted? What made you keep going?

4k for cancer thebikedyke

She got into a fight with the road and it won.

Sure! I would say that every single day I was exhausted and at one point or another (even though overall it was a blast!), but one day where I was really having a difficult time was bicycling up Trail Ridge Road, which is the highest paved road in the U.S. We had “climbing buddies” because the ride was so steep, which just means a teammate who sticks with you and makes sure you’re doing ok.

My climbing buddy had broken her thumb really badly the night before and was in a crazy amount of pain going up the mountain. We started to get really dizzy because of the giant altitude shift. I’m severely asthmatic, so I had to keep meeting up with the van and plugging in my nebulizer so I didn’t have a giant asthma attack. Then, a huge thunderstorm hit and we had no shelter to hide from it.

4k for cancer thebikedyke

A happier time on the 4KforCancer 🙂

4k for cancer thebikedyke

The 4KforCancer van

My number one fear is lightning, so I was petrified, but also really frustrated that we couldn’t finish the climb, because it was such a notoriously difficult ride and I really wanted to finish it. In that moment, my teammates and the people we met along the way battling cancer or who had lost loved ones to cancer kept me going on this 4k for Cancer. My team immediately sprang into action and began loading bicycles on top of the van and cramming 20+ people and all of our gear into a 15 passenger van. Some of my other teammates had hitched a ride with a park ranger, and I was impressed that they had beaten us up the mountain.

The view from the top of Trail Ridge Road was incredible- it looked like we were in a fairytale of some sort. It just didn’t seem real. It was a nice reminder that I was safe, I was surrounded by my teammates who were family. Everything was going to be ok.

4k for cancer thebikedyke

Goofing around on the road.

Was there ever a moment on the 4k for Cancer course when you felt totally at peace?

There were so many moments that felt like I was totally at peace.

One day, it was down-pouring and freezing and my climbing buddy Krista and I were for some reason totally in sync. The ride was really hard and a lot of my other teammates were having a difficult time, but for some reason, Krista and I were almost in a meditative state! The road we were on was super dangerous, and Krista’s back tire kept flinging mud up in my face. I ended up looking like I was covered in a million freckles, but they were all made from mud.

4k for cancer thebikedyke

Mud freckles

Near the end of the day, we reached the peak of the mountain and just coasted crazy fast down. It was one of those really rewarding days where you have steadily climbed for hours and you get to reap the full benefit by having this amazing downhill. At the bottom, we were absolutely freezing, but so happy. We took these photos on my phone of us just being so happy with how the ride went. We must have looked absolutely bonkers.

What kinds of places do you sleep on these rides?

4k for cancer thebikedyke

The 4KforCancer “Uniform”

We would sleep on the floors of churches, schools, YMCA’s, etc. I was one of the people on my team who coordinated housing ahead of time, which meant contacting previous hosts and asking if they’d be willing to let us crash again or cold-calling all of the potential hosts in a random town in the middle of America. Sometimes, we’d get really lucky and a church or organization would coordinate homestays for us! That was like Disneyland, because we’d get a hot meal and a hot shower and maybe even a bed and a chance to do laundry. The strangest places I slept on the 4k for Cancer were a firehouse (in the garage, next to the firetruck!), the Utah Jazz basketball stadium, and the barn of a rodeo.

How does a “bike road trip” differ from that in car?

It’s so different! When you’re in a vehicle, you don’t have to constantly be looking out for every piece of glass or vent in the road, you don’t have to expend an incredible amount of energy on big mountains, and you aren’t completely exposed to the elements. But, you have a much easier time stopping and talking to locals, going into shops and businesses, meeting other folks on the road, and you have a deeper understanding of the places you bicycled through, because you saw them at 15 miles per hour from sunup to sundown.

4k for cancer thebikedyke

The team with their bikes.

Even though it can be exhausting, you might be battling heat stroke or freezing because your clothing is soaked, or you might be caught in a headwind that makes you feel like you’re moving through molasses, I strongly prefer the latter. After bicycling 9,000+ miles, my executive opinion is that it makes for better adventures.

What advice would you give someone going on a 4k for Cancer or similar trip?

4k for cancer thebikedyke

The 4KForCancer Team San Francisco

4k for cancer thebikedyke

Friends for life.

Do it! Seriously, do it. Even if you think that you can’t physically do it, even if you are scared or anxious, do it. Your body will adjust to the miles, and you will become so accustomed to life on the road that you’ll be comfortable sleeping just about anywhere and wonder why you ever had more than three outfits to begin with. Even better, you’ll make true lifelong friends, because they will literally have been in the trenches with you. You’ll have a deeper understanding of who you are as a person and just how dang resilient you are. And you’ll have memories that will make you so glad to be alive.

You can find Riley on Instagram and Youtube. 

  • Pin it:

4K for Cancer TheBikeDyke

Follow:

Have you ever tried to have brunch in an abandoned building?

Hungarian Embassy Washington

I was in DC for the inauguration and a quintessential thing to do there is crash an embassy for free alcohol. So, after spending the morning at the Women’s March, I met up with some friends and we tried to go to the Hungarian Embassy DC for an event (and free mimosas).

But when we got there, not only was the building empty, but the gate was chained shut. And we were essentially in the middle of the woods.

As our Lyft driver disappeared down the road, my cheeks grew a little warm.

Hungarian Embassy DC New Location

“Uhhh. Y’all. This is how horror movies start,” I laughed as we circled the dreary building, looking for an entrance. “The event was today, right?”

“Yeah,” my friend Smoky said, checking her phone. Her face turned red. “Y’all, we’re at the wrong place.”

By this point, standing in front of a dark building and hearing the eerie coo of doves in the distance, I had gathered that.

Turns out the event we were meant to attend was the Hungarian Embassy DC’s new location in the center of the city. Near enough to Smoky’s home that we could’ve walked.

We immediately called another Lyft and within minutes were on our way back over the river and through the woods, leaving spookesville behind.

Thank God for smartphones, right?

I kept thinking about what would have happened in the days of yesteryear…seeing the cab disappear into the distance…having no idea where you are…with no way to contact help…when out of the corner of your eye you spot him…Shia LaBeouf.

New Location Hungarian Embassy DC

We were terribly underdressed when we arrived at the embassy, weaving between diplomats and fancy ladies in pearls just trying to find some snacks. I ran into a few friends from college, as DC is filled with young professionals it’s nearly impossible not to see someone you know at these things, and took solace in the fact that we were all not fancy.

That said, the brunch at the Hungarian Embassy DC was delicious. The people were welcoming and made Smoky and I even more excited about our upcoming trip to Budapest.

Embassy of Hungry DC

The new building is lovely—we all felt right at home (if not a bit warm since there were so many people there to see its new location). But the best part?

The guard dog.

Hungarian Dog

Smoky was trying to take a photo of the dog…but I thought she was taking a photo of me so I sat down and ruined her photo.

mop or dog?

We didn’t feel 100% comfortable stuffing out faces amongst the aforementioned fancy ladies in pearls, so we stopped by one of the best places to eat in DC (besides Nandos of course): Ted’s Bulletin.

Known for its homemade pop tarts, Ted’s is a familyish-owned place with 1920’s décor and friendly vibe. There are a few locations sprinkled throughout the greater-DC area. It’s the best brunch in town.

Have y’all ever made a travel mistake? Arrived at 9:30PM instead of AM? Put in the wrong location? I’d love to hear about it. Thankfully the consequences for this brunch gone badly weren’t too high.

  • Pin it:

Hungarian Embassy Brunch

Follow:

Texans are my favorite kind of people, so it’s a good thing I spent inauguration eve with nearly 10,000 of them.

I’ve gained a little weight since college, so my red coat didn’t quite button, allowing the freezing Maryland air to envelop me as my friends and I darted down the block towards the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center for the Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball.

Our Lyft driver dropped us at the end of the street to avoid the traffic. I called back “thanks” as I toddled on the concrete, not used to wearing heels. He flashed a smile and inched his way around the corner, perhaps to prepare himself for the morning.

Ah, the morning. Inauguration Day.

Black Tie & Boots

the 1st of many!

My friend Smoky works for a senior senator and put in quite a bit of extra time to ensure the inaugural ticketing process ran smoothly for his constituents (that’s how we “scored” seated tickets for the actual ceremony), but many people (surprise, surprise) never materialized to actually pick up their tickets for the standing areas, so she was tasked with getting rid of them.

After handing a few to our Lyft driver, we arrived at the ball with dozens of them stuffed in her purse, determined to give them all away.

I felt a little bit like Santa Claus.

Black Tie & Boots

My dress from Rent the Runway! It was HUGE so I had to get creative with safety pins to get it to work.

While it was easier to take the Black Tie & Boots ball for what it was, a big party put on by the Texas State Society in DC regardless of who wins the White House, handing out the inauguration tickets inherently felt more political.

But it did give us some leverage.

We swiped some chairs from the first people we gave tickets to. I was crazy and wore blue suede heels without really breaking them in, so about 20 minutes after arriving it felt like there was glass attached to the balls of my feet.

While there were tables sprinkled throughout the Gaylord’s ballrooms, most of them were occupied with people chowing down on the available Tex-Mex (y’all, I must’ve eaten like 15 mini-burritos), so when I saw an empty seat, I pounced.

Black Tie & Boots

One of the lobbies at the Gaylord.

Can you spot the photobomb

I sat down at a table with a pair of husbands whose wives were dancing and 100% would’ve gotten kicked out when they got back if Smoky hadn’t casually given them some tickets.

All of a sudden, they thought we were important. A man in the hallway pulled out a wad of 20’s thicker than my fist (which of course we didn’t accept) when he heard we had tickets, while another younger man chatted to us nearly non-stop for about 5 minutes, making us feel a bit trapped.

“Was he flirting?” Smoky asked.

“No, I think he thought we could do something for him,” another friend replied.

Jokes on him, though. He was talking to the least important group of people there. People who were wearing rented dresses, pinchy heels, and freely taking advantage of the open bar.

Black Tie & Boots

We’ve come a long way from prom, Smoky #GloUp

Black Tie & Boots Dresses

*ahem* please notice the Texas flags

There were a few actually important people there though, like a congressman I had campaigned for as a part of my government class in 2008. Little me had a huge crush on him. I remember thinking that he smelled really good, so I wobbled a little when I spotted him talking to a group of patrons nearby.

He greeted each of them, and somehow I got tacked onto the end of the introduction, like I was part of the group.

“Hi, Congressman,” I squeaked, sticking out a clammy hand.

I wanted to have an actual conversation (about what, I don’t know….my mind was filled with radio silence), but when he turned to my “companions” to begin talking about some school issue, I could only manage to stand there blankly smiling for a moment or two before had to just awkwardly side-step away from the conversation and back to my friends.

It wouldn’t have been too bad if I hadn’t run into him again and again throughout the ball getting “who the heck are you” looks each time.

Black Tie & Boots

100% full stalker mode

D.C. is filled with young people trying to make their mark on the world and so was Black Tie and Boots. If you work for the government, or an organization that needs government funding support, an inaugural ball is a good place to network. It’s also a great place to find a date (i.e. the highest concentration of motivated businessmen and suave military personnel probably anywhere).

Black Tie & Boots

Tired of acting fancy

Later in the evening, after the Beach Boys played and some widely entertaining swing dance groups tore up the dance floor (see below; how those girls manage those drops is beyond me) Donald Trump Jr. arrived to thunderous applause.

The majority of the people there fell into my demographic: straight, white, and probably evangelical in some way. At the time, before 45 had officially come to power, I felt more compelled to hear them out. Now, nearing the end of his first 100 days, I have less sympathy.

Black Tie & Boots

Jr. and co.

Jr. looks a little bit less like a serial killer than his younger brother, but being close enough to him that I could see the sweat on his forehead still gave me the creeps.

He spoke about his excitement around the evening and gratitude towards his father’s voters. He received an honorary Stetson and people laughed.

I thought about the words of a speaker earlier in the night.

“I know Black Tie & Boots isn’t partisan, but can you just imagine how sick the other side feels right now?” The crowd cheered in response.

That was me.

I felt sick.

I went to find another mini-burrito.

  • Pin it: 

Black Tie & Boots Pin

PS: I also went to the Women’s March on Washington in DC. 

Follow:

“Excuse me, sir? This is a private tour.”

“This is the Texas State Capitol; I’m free to follow any tour I want.”

“Yeah, free to follow any other tour.”

Free Texas State Capitol Tour Free Texas Capitol Tour Door Sass courtesy of my older sister Kerry. We were in Austin for the weekend because her husband had just graduated as a Texas State Trooper and she wanted to show off Texas’ capital city to the fam since we all drove in for the ceremony.

But my brother in law’s family is preeeeetty big, so although you can take a free Texas state Capitol tour (really: you just show up and join the next tour leaving—more on that here), we didn’t feel like it would be fair to the general public to just roll up with about 35 people and expect to be accommodated.

So we called ahead.

My dad has voted in every election basically since being born, so when Mike Schofield decided to run for the Texas House of Representatives, he came to our house to talk to my dad for a few hours to go over things that were important to voters in the district. So we only thought it fair to call in a favor.

Free Texas Capitol Tour

The six flags that have flown over Texas. Can you name them all?

State of Texas Seal

just sittin on the seal

Texas State Capitol Dome

Inside of the Capitol’s dome. It’s taller than the one in DC…cause everything is bigger in Texas.

Schofield was kind enough to set up a private tour for my extended family, but upon hearing just how large the group was going to be, his aide couldn’t help but blurt, “Wait…so how many of these people are actually in his district?”

Like 3 of the 35 okay, but if you just shut up and give us this tour those 3 will be voting for your boss again so CHILLAX.

Anyway.

Texas Trooper Grad

His first arrest.

Our chipper guide Erin greeted us in the atrium (p. sure her name was Erin. If not, she really looked like one) and took us on a roughly 30 minute tour, but random people kept butting into our tour and with 35 people already trying to hear just one guide, you can’t have any interlopers. Hence the convo above.

If you aren’t convinced that Texas really is the greatest state in the Union, you will be after you see its Capitol building. Matthew McConaughey even narrates the film in the visitor’s center.

Alright.

Alright.

Alright.

Texas Capitol

Quick Tips for your free Texas State Capitol Tour: 

  • Call ahead if you have a big group. You can go through your state rep as well.
  • Park at 1201 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin, Texas 78701. More info here.
  • Plan to spend about an hour or so wandering the Capitol and grounds after your tour, since it’s really just the highlights.
  • Keep your eyes OPEN for Pancake, the first puppy of Texas. The first reader who spots her gets a prize.
Texas House of Representatives

Inside the Texas House of Representatives chamber. Unlike in DC, they let you take pictures. Cause Texans are way nicer.

Texas State Senate

The Texas Senate Room. I really just took this picture to show off my braid though.

After your free Texas State Capitol tour, consider driving up to Lake Travis to check out the Oasis. It’s a mini-town of restaurants and shops right on the edge of the lake with a killer view of the Texas sunset. 10/10 would recommend mostly for the view and not as much for the food. We went the night before for my brother in law’s trooper graduation.

Oasis Austin Patio View

View from the Oasis on Lake Travis, Texas

Oasis Austin View

Cousins take in the scenery.

Oasis Sunset View

all ~*dramatic*~ and stuff watching the sunset.

Oasis Austin Patio

The Oasis is a great place for selfies.

Have you been to Austin?

I hadn’t been in over ten years and am kicking myself for missing out. I’m heading back soon.

  • Pin it:

Free Texas Capitol Pin

Follow:

I’m the worst Texan ever.

Seriously y’all: I don’t like sweet tea, country music, barbecue, or most importantly, football.

So it took me a little bit to get excited about Houston hosting Super Bowl LI.

Houston NFL Experience

worshiping at the altar of the NFL as soon as I found out Chris Evans would be in Houston

BUT as soon as the Patriots made the cut I got real excited real fast because we all know that Christopher Robert Evans lives and breathes Patriots football.

I’m on a tight budget these days and couldn’t afford to get tickets to the actual game (nor do I think I could actually force myself to sit through it) or cool “exclusive” events around town, but I did head to the NFL Experience Houston with my sister for some major celebrity stalking.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t see Chris. But I did meet Eddie Redmayne one time.

Quick Tip: always take public transport (or park far away an Uber in) to Super Bowl Events, no matter the city. 

Houston NFL Experience

Houston gets hyped

Houston NFL Experience

Houston gets even more hyped

My sister had the genius idea to take the bus into downtown Houston which saved us $25 (minimum — they were straight up gouging people on parking places) and the relationship-ending fight that would’ve been born out of Super Bowl traffic.

However, once people got out of their cars, the foot traffic around Discovery Green wasn’t too bad and we were able to wander and take in the ~*NFL Experience Houston*~ without feeling suffocated. As someone who doesn’t like football, the pressure for accomplishing anything at the event was low and I was actually able to have a great time — although y’all KNOW I was on high alert for Chris Evans at all times.

Houston Super Bowl NFL Experience

Sisterly Bonding (after not fighting cause we took the bus)

Quick Tip: if you decide to attend the NFL Experience in your own city, go Monday — Thursday to avoid the crowds.

There were a lot of NFL heavyweights there (but I didn’t know who any of them were, so I can’t really report back on that — my bad y’all) filming TV spots for later in the week, a field goal contest, and the best part (since I didn’t end up finding Chris) a satellite PUPPY BOWL.

Check these pups:

puppy bowl houston

puppppieees

And this kicker:

Houston NFL Experience

I didn’t even bother to wait in line for this nonsense

There were also a few cool art installations sprinkled throughout Discovery Green, including a line of humongous NFL helmet replicas from each team. My sister picked the Cowboys because she’s married to their biggest fan, while I went for the Packers because if Harry Styles likes them, they must be the best.

Green Bay Packers Houston Texas

Go pack goooooo

Cowboys Houston Texas Super Bowl

Maybe they’ll give her a ring next year…

Houston is also home to NASA (like our only claim to fame…wait no, we have Beyonce), so the Space City’s upcoming programs were fully on display at the NFL Experience Houston. I’m not a STEM person, but my sister was in heaven as an engineer. She had a field day talking to the NASA team and learning all about the future of space travel and research.

Houston NASA Super Bowl

we <3 NASA

We ended the night rushing back to the bus stop on the OTHER side of downtown Houston from the festivities after a quick munch stop at a local grocery store.

Quick Tip: Never eat at these events. It’s way too much. Also pee at a store before you get there. 

Houston Texas Super Bowl

pretending we are pumped

I rooted for the Patriots in Super Bowl LI because they also won in 2015 and I got the day off school because of it — so I feel like I am in their debt. It was my senior year of college and I went to Mount Holyoke in South Hadley, MA. They’re real serious about football up there guys.

If you’re looking for more things to do in Houston, check out my list here. 

  • Pin It:

NFL Experience Houston

Follow: