Century A Day – Memory Lane – Battling the Heat Wave

Hello from Carbondale, IL. Since leaving Pueblo, Colorado we have biked more than 100 miles a day, traveled down memory lane with John’s family, and battled the heatwave that has consumed the U.S. from Midwest to East Coast.

Meeting with Dr. Colette Carter, Leticia Steffen, and Dr. Ryan Strickler at Colorado State University – Pueblo

After having a successful meeting with the professors from Colorado State University – Pueblo, we departed east. Despite starting in the late afternoon we still managed to bike 60 miles to Sugar City, CO. There, we visited Lynette’s Sugar City Cafe, who’s owner has a quite impressive collection of cookie jars. Unsure where we could sleep, we asked the owner for an advise. She told us that we can ask the Mayor, who was dining there at the same time as us. We received a permission from the Mayor of Sugar City to sleep at the town’s park.

Our tents at Sugar City, CO town park

The following day, woken up by the park’s sprinklers, we set out to cross the the Kansas border. Due to strong headwinds, we were unable to accomplish our daily goal. After biking 85 miles, we stopped 11 miles short of Kansas border in Sheridan Lake. The locals we met at the gas station told us that we can stay at their Sheridan Lake Bible Church, where there is air conditioning, a full kitchen, and a fully stocked lazy-susan pantry. This was like a gift send from heaven. We were happy to take up on their services.

With Kansas border sign

The next day we crossed into Kansas and encountered many cyclists who were on a similar journey. The next two days we biked from sunrise to sunset, covering more than 100 miles each day. We slept at the local high school football fields in Bazine and Chase, KS. On July 14th, we made it to Wichita. There we stayed with Stan from Warm Showers. In Wichita, we had plans to meet with professors from Wichita State University, unfortunately, we were unable to meet up. This gave us time to sit at a local cafe and send out more emails to universities.

Our next stop was Fredonia, KS. On the way there, a local farmer stopped and gave us cold water and fresh peaches. 20 miles out from the city, we decided to take a shorter route and ended up on back country gravel roads. In the last 6 miles of our journey, we stumbled upon a big challenge. Locals told us that Kansas has been experiencing a lot of rain in the past couple of days so the surrounding rivers were higher than usual at this time of the year. Our road was blocked by a fast moving river that we were unable to cross. Alternative routes were also blocked by the river. With high speed water the bridges fell in. It kept pushing us farther off the route until we were able to find a high bridge that allowed us to cross. We got into Fredonia quite late and went straight to bed.

Road blocked by Fall River

On July 15th, we crossed the Missouri border entering John’s home state. Biking through Missouri is like biking through John’s childhood. We swung by Joplin, MO to say hi to his parents and then moved on to Springfield, MO. John has a big family. In Springfield, we stayed with his cousin and met his extended family. John’s sister makes the best pie. The thing is, John loves pies. Throughout our journey, he would never pass an opportunity to stop at a pie joint. So far, we have tasted more than 20 pie slices. John’s sister’s pies has is the best pie so far.

While relaxing with John’s family we reached out to Missouri State University and had a meeting with Dr. Kathleen A. Kennedy, head of the history department. The meeting was successful. Dr. Kennedy was excited about our mission and after the meeting, she expressed an eagerness to continue the conversation down the road. The following days in Kansas were brutal. Our hundred mile quotas during the heat wave were more than our bodies could handle. We went through 10 liters of water each day. Our jerseys were drenched with sweat. We were afraid to go in to any establishments, worried that we would stink up the place.

On July 20th, we crossed into Illinois. Now, in Carbondale, we plan to meet with professors from the Southern Illinois University, then head for Kentucky, while looking forward to end of the heat wave.

At the border of Illionis

“Life Elevated” in Utah

Crossing from Nevada to Utah

By: Lidia

Hello from Utah, the “Life Elevated” state! We have some exciting news from the road. Over the last week, we’ve had our first official meeting at Southern Utah University, were joined by a new team member, and have reached out to over 30 community colleges and state schools along our route. Here’s a quick recap of our recent adventures:

Last Friday, we were fortunate to meet with nine students from Southern Utah University who are interested in public service and careers in DC. We introduced ourselves, SAIS, and the mission of our trip. Lidia discussed how she lived and worked in Eastern Europe. John spoke about his family background and challenges adapting to DC life. Sarahann shared her experiences working in U.S. embassies around the world. The students asked thoughtful and provoking questions, challenging us to reflect on how individuals from different backgrounds can enter and thrive in competitive fields. We know they will all do great things for their communities!

Exploring Southern Utah University’s campus after our meet-and-greet with students

In Cedar City, we also had to say goodbye to Josh and Chloe, who are moving on to start their jobs at the Federal Reserve in New York. We will miss them! But, we’ve been joined by a new team member, Jesse Metzger. He will be cycling with us to Washington, DC and has brought wonderful energy to the group. To read more about Jesse’s background, check out our team biography page.

For Jesse’s first day, we began our climb through the Utah mountains. Wow, it is difficult! The hills are pushing us to our breaking points. In a single ride, we climbed over 5,000 feet, reaching an altitude of 10,400 where the snow is still fresh and summer seems far off. On Saturday, we caught a glimpse of Cedar Breaks and met a park ranger whose brother attended SAIS. We also met a fellow Washingtonian, RootChopper, who has a friend working at Johns Hopkins and gave us tips about the road ahead.

Sarahann, Jesse, and Lidia making the long climb from Cedar City to Cedar Breaks

Next, our route brought us to Kodachrome Basin State Park, which has beautiful views, rock formations that look like they’re from Mars, and a campground with 5-star showers. We cleaned ourselves up and spent the night toasting marshmallows over a fire. From there, we traveled to Escalante, UT and then descended into the Escalante Canyons. The road was steep and narrow, so we had to take extra safety precautions. But the view at the bottom of the canyons was worth it!

Views from Kodachrome Basin State Park

Today, we have reached Boulder, UT and have spent the morning reaching out to community and state colleges across the country. We have contacted individuals from over 30 institutions inviting them to connect us with their students. We hope this outreach will be fruitful and help us set up more formal meetings. If you know anyone along our route who would be interested in meeting us, please contact us. We are happy to get coffee and chat with anyone!

John, Sarahann, and Lidia enjoying the views after a long day of cycling