Quite a few of us feel the call of the open road. Very few of us actually get to act on it. Chainlink member Jaik Smith is one of those people. Toward the end of the month, he'll be embarking on a 4300 mile bike ride from the northwest corner of the country to the southeast. Along the way, he hopes to raise $5,000 for cancer research. Smith took a break from packing to fill us in on his plans, as well as his motivation to pedal over mountain passes and endless windswept plains.
By Jaik Smith
Just 17 days from now, I will be starting the biggest adventure that I have ever been on. I will be flying to Seattle so that I can start a journey from Seattle to Key West. Yes, that Key West. It’s one of the longest ways to ride from one corner of the continental United States to the other. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I can say that there were little contributions and nudges from many people. Notably, there was a nice guy that I had met last year at a party with The Chainlink named Harry Wray. Harry is not only a Professor and a published author but when he was 35 years old he rode his bike across the country. This year, I turned 35 and I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.
I joked repeatedly with my manager, saying that I was going, not even sure if I would. Finally he told me I need to put in dates for the request. That was about two months ago. It’s been a hectic two months.
My family has a big history with Cancer. My Grandpa didn’t go see a doctor in 20 years. He wasn’t stubborn but he had a different outlook on things. Every time one of his brothers had went to see a doctor for some reason or another, the doctor said “You’ve got cancer and you’re going to die.” His theory was, he wouldn’t have to worry about dying if the doctor never had the opportunity to tell him that he was going to do so. That worked out well for him until he had a heart attack. After heart surgery, they told him they had found Cancer but it was treatable. There are three others that I know of that also have had Cancer issues. It’s close, really close.
Deciding on the route was tough. I officially took two months as an extended leave of absence. I had to have enough time to get to the start, see as much as I could, sleep, and relax. I’ll be doing descents down mountains for days. I’ll be visiting waterfalls, caves, and monuments. A large portion of the ride was dependent on the kind people on WarmShowers.org. They are loaning yard space for my tent, couches, spare bedrooms, food, and of course a warm shower. Over 4300 miles of roads and trails that I’ll need to pass.
What could I do to improve the lives of others and quite possibly myself while riding my bicycle from one corner to the other? Raise money for Cancer research. I have a goal. I’ve got everything needed, but the goal isn’t close. Not yet.
Someone recently asked if I was nervous. I’m nervous about two things. My longest day and not being able to reach my goal of fundraising. My confidence and determination will get me through my longest day. The days prior will prepare me to cross that threshold. It will be my unofficial "hump" day. The goal is something I can’t control. I can tell people about what I’m doing and I can ask if they could donate but in the end, I can’t achieve the goal on my own.
In 17 days my life is going to change and I’ll be riding for a cause that we can all get behind.