FARMINGTON – A group of cyclists from Texas rode through the Four Corners this weekend with an overnight stay in Farmington before traveling to Pagosa Springs to spread the message of hope, knowledge and charity to heighten cancer awareness and raise money to help families afford cancer support services.
Their home state is not the only thing these cyclists have in common. They are all in college or recent graduates and all ride to honor a family member, friend or other loved one who has been affected by cancer.
Each team member raises $4,500, rides 2,000 training miles with his or her team, volunteers more than 50 hours in the community and plays an active role in planning every aspect of the ride by attending weekly meetings and taking leadership positions with the team.
Rithvik Ramesh, a 21-year-old cyclist from Plano, Texas, said the money raised by each team member for the ride generally comes from friends and family members.
“We all like to panhandle around Austin and go back home and reach out to our parents’ workplaces, we really want to spread the mission of Texas 4000 and cancer prevention and that rings a bell with a lot of people,” Ramesh said. “It’s really touching to see the generosity of all our supporters.”
The three pillars of the mission of the Texas 4000 are hope, knowledge and charity.
“Our organization does a lot of fundraising so that we can grant to both cancer research opportunities as well as support services like the Connelly House here at San Juan Medical Center,” said Ryan Logan, a 22-year-old cyclist from Houston. “With regard to knowledge, our other pillar, we periodically give presentations about cancer research and awareness that we want to educate the community and have them decrease the likelihood or their family members’ likelihood of eventually getting cancer. And finally, our last pillar, hope, is ... that by doing this tough physical challenge, we can ride in solidarity with people who have also faced really tough challenges. We have a choice to ride our bikes, while a lot of people didn’t have a choice to fight cancer or lose loved ones to cancer.”
Logan said he primarily rides for his uncle who lost his life to glioblastoma, but that being on this team, he’s widened his dedications a bit.
“One of the coolest things about this organization is being able to hear my teammates’ stories and hear our supporters’ stories along the way and really try to incorporate why those people feel so connected to the fight against cancer and bearing that with me, as I bike across the country,” he said.
The group stayed at the Connelly Hospitality House, a building within the San Juan Regional Medical Center that is available for patients and caregivers to stay while receiving medical services and cancer treatments if they meet certain qualifications.
The building has eight private bedrooms with private bathrooms, a large fully equipped kitchen, a well-stocked food pantry, laundry facilities, a library, common areas with fireplaces, beautiful landscapes, as well as RV parking availability next to the house with electricity, water and sewer access.
“We find this a very meaningful experience, to meet members of the community who are also passionate about ending cancer and working to support those who are fighting cancer,” Ramesh said. “That’s all a part of our mission.”
Ramesh said he primarily rides for his grandmother who died from glioblastoma when he was in middle school.
“Now, I ride a lot for my mother as well,” he said. “She is actively working on melanoma research, and I find that very, very meaningful as we work to find a cure to the cancers that are out there affecting our friends and family.”
The ride is more than twice as long as the Tour de France, according to a news release sent by the San Juan Medical Foundation.
There are legs, or routes, to the trip. The one involving this area is the Rockies Route. While the route would usually take the bikers to Alaska, because of looming national and international COVID-19 guidance, the cyclists will travel from Texas through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and then head back once they reach the border of Canada.
For 70 days, the cyclists will trek through rain, sleet, wind, snow and heat. In the past, the group would take a plane home once they reached Alaska. But because the trip was cut short distance-wise, the group decided it will bike back to Texas, taking a slightly different route to spread the message further.
Because the ride was canceled last year because of COVID-19, some riders missed out on the opportunity altogether. However, Shreya Pandiri, a 22-year-old cyclist from Austin, said her situation was a little special this year. While she has been on the team for three years, and planned to do her ride last year, because of the pandemic she deferred her ride to this year.
“I have been training for 14 months now, while the rest of the team has trained for about seven months,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for a long time; this is a long time coming.”
Pandiri found out about the organization from her high school math teacher who went to the University of Austin as a graduate student and rode when he was a student there. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Pandiri was in fifth grade.
“Since I was so young, I didn’t feel like I supported her the way I should have, and joining the team has been almost reparation in a way to honor her and to fundraise for people who have been affected like her,” Pandiri said.
She said one thing she was really looking forward to for the rest of the trip is going through the communities and spreading the message – even at gas stations.
“There are so many other communities we bike through, and at the gas stations we get to meet people who have been affected by cancer and they tell us their stories, and we carry their names,” Pandiri said. “I think that really hearkens the pillar of hope, just knowing that there is a group of young people that are willing to do this crazy journey and really put their hearts into fighting a disease that has affected so many people.”
To learn more about the Texas 4000 or to donate, visit Texas4000.org.