If they all had folding bikes you could very well call it Texas Fold-Em.
A Texas-based charity recently rolled through Smithers on its way to Alaska.
The Texas 4000 For Cancer is an annual 4000-kilometre, 70-day journey which brings three different groups — all travelling different routes — across the U.S. and Canada.
The three groups (one travelling the Pacific Northwest [Sierra], another heading through the Rockies [Rockies] and a third going through much of central Canada and the U.S.’s “cancer belt” [Ozarks]) re-converge back in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories on July 30, or day 60 of their journey, which finishes in Anchorage, Alaska.
Alyssa Schmidt is one of 28 riders on the Sierra route this year, which passed through Smithers on July 25.
The team spent the night at the Mountain View Assembly church, located just outside of town, where the floor was filled with crate after crate of seemingly-endless gear and food.
Schmidt said that, above all, the ride — meant as a metaphor for the journey cancer patients go through — is about people who want to change the discussion about cancer.
“Really, it’s a bunch of crazy kids that are really passionate about changing the perspective of cancer,” she said in an interview with The Interior News.
The non-profit’s website shows that Schmidt’s group has logged 4,381 miles in the 59 days they have been on the road.
That works out to just over 74 miles (or just under 120 kilometres) a day.
No small feat, and one that Schmidt said certainly requires a few extra calories, adding she doesn’t know how many she eats in a typical day.
“I couldn’t even tell you, but it’s so much. We see food and we immediately inhale it. We are so hungry: in the middle of the ride, at the end of the ride, before the ride starts — I mean, we wake up in the morning and we’re like, ‘Where is breakfast?’ It’s ridiculous.”
Schmidt said she first heard about the charity around 2013.
For her part, she said she is riding for a number of friends and family who she has lost to cancer.
“At the time my grandmother had just been diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, which was her third battle which cancer, and it was one of those things where it was like … if I do go to the University of Texas that’s something … I’d probably want to do and check that out.”
Shortly after she was accepted, her grandmother passed away.
Shortly after that, Schmidt lost another two friends — one to cancer again, and another one who drowned in floodwaters.
“It was just one of those years where I was like, I need to go do something bigger than myself, I need to go make a tangible change in the world and Texas 4000 was a place for me to do that and honour them.”
But 4,000 miles is a long way to bike, and it wouldn’t exactly be a good look for the University if students started dropping off along the way.
With that in mind, students need to complete at least 2,000 miles with their team as part of an 18-month leadup program to the ride.
They also have to raise at least $4,500 and volunteer 50 or more hours within the cancer community.
Discussing the challenges she has faced and the friends she has made, Schmidt described the experience as one that began as being about a few specific people but blossomed into much more.
“It started as just those three women … but it has really just become every person that I meet, every story that I hear they’re immediately somebody that I take with me,” she said.
“Everybody has a unique story but it’s all the same … cancer somehow devastated us in some way.”
She said she is beyond excited to be reunited with the other two teams in Whitehorse.
As for what she’s going to do when she gets home?
Much like the endorphin-rich, post bike ride afterglow, it’s a tossup between two choices.
“After hugging my mom … I can’t decide if I’m going to go sleep or if I’m going to go eat all of the hometown foods that I really miss because I haven’t been back to my hometown since, well, before graduation in May.
“I can’t decide which one I want more — sleep or food. Which is kind of what this ride is [like] when you get off the bike: do you want sleep or food?”
Texas 4000 for Cancer was founded by Chris and Mandy Condit in 2004, the former of which is a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor.