We are reaching the halfway point of the four months we have dedicated to fundraise for HERS Breast Cancer Foundation (HBCF) and bringing awareness to breast cancer. HBCF is a professional accredited foundation that was established in 1998 by a team of empowering women. This foundation strives to promote its mission of supporting all women healing from breast cancer by providing post-surgical products and services regardless of financial status. On behalf of HBCF and in my mother's honor, Jesse Frechione and I are cycling from Alaska to South America.
After initially being inspired to take a journey through South America after watching the movie The Motorcycle Diaries, I was convinced it was time to embark on this journey back in February 2011, when my mother underwent a lumpectomy for breast cancer. She only discovered the lump in her breast after an accident left her bruised and the area did not heal. Since I was present with her through the challenges and eventually the triumph of breast cancer, I was inspired to do this now and bring greater awareness and education about breast cancer.
As a recent graduate with a Civil Engineering degree and having played professional hockey in Switzerland, I knew the timing was now or never to take advantage of being in my mid-20s and having the leisure to take this ride of lifetime. Along with my good friend since the age of 12, Jesse, the two of us hit the road spinning on Thursday, August 23 at 5 a.m. AKT, which resulted in a very rough start. Within the first hour Jesse fell off his bike a couple times while trying to get used to the peddle clips. This was followed by a flat tire and getting struck by a car. Needless to say, we seriously contemplated returning home but eventually decided to push through. It actually ended up taking us about three days to get completely comfortable with our bikes.
We rode through Alaska and into Canada -- we are still blown away by how extremely nice and supportive everyone was that we met. Canadian locals shared amazing stories about grizzly bear sightings, which actually lead us to worry about encountering one, but we appreciated the advice. Nightfall was tough in Alaska and Canada for me, once we set up camp Jesse was quickly sleeping like a baby, but I had trouble falling asleep as all I could think of was a bear invading our site, even with a knife and bear spray in my possession.
While we were in Portland, my college friend Mike Price decided to join us. It was a spontaneous trip; he literally bought his flight from Anchorage the night before departing. Once Mike landed he bought a bike from REI and joined us for several weeks as we finished riding through Oregon and entered Northern California. We've been averaging about 80 miles per day, stopping for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
As we continue to pedal on with hope and excitement, our inspiration increases with each milestone we accomplish. As we exit the state of California and head towards Mexico, we are looking forward to continue raising recognition and funds for HERS Breast Cancer Foundation, and truly making a difference in the world. From here we will cycle through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and will wrap up the journey in Colombia, for a total of roughly 7,000 miles.
We welcome fellow cyclists to join us on the road. You can learn our location through our social outlets (Facebook and Twitter) and are grateful for any generous donations towards HERS Breast Cancer Foundation.
By: Neil Walsky