Two months ago, Bike World News was honored to interview two young men as they embarked on a journey to bike from Alaska to South America to raise awareness of breast cancer for the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation (Part One).
Though not professional cyclists, Neil Walsky and Jesse Frechione have already made it to California, nearing San Diego. Upon nearing the southern border of the US, Walsky found time to update followers on their trek so far:
As we reach the last stop before heading south of the U.S. border, Jesse and I are reflecting on the journey we have encountered up to this point; milestones we have accomplished, challenges we have faced and the interesting people we have met. The last four months have had its share of ups and downs, such as almost turning back on day one after Jesse fell off his bike a few times, got a flat tire, and was hit by a car. When things get difficult we stay focused on the reason we sought out on this mission, which is to raise funds for the exceptional organization HERS Breast Cancer Foundation (HBCF) and bring 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 cause of supporting all women healing from breast cancer by providing post-surgical products and services regardless of financial status. Not only have these women become a huge support system for us during our journey, but they have also provided products to my mother, who is a breast cancer survivor. This is huge, as I have watched my mother struggle to get the essential products for her recovery that are not always covered by insurance.
After initially being inspired to take a journey through South America after watching the documentary The Motorcycle Diaries, I was convinced it was time to embark on this trip 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.
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. Jesse and I decided to hit the road on Thursday, August 23rd at 5:00 a.m. AKT, a day earlier than we initially planned in efforts to avoid the peak of hunting season. It was a rough start, as it took us about three days to get completely comfortable with our bikes. We started our journey cycling through Alaska and into Canada.
During our ride through Canada we met some of the kindest and most supportive people. Canadian locals shared amazing stories about grizzly bear sightings and while we appreciated the advice it actually led us to worry about encountering one. Nightfall was tough in Alaska and Canada. Once we set up camp Jesse was quickly sound asleep, but I always had trouble falling asleep. All I could think of was bears invading our site, even though I was armed with a knife and bear spray.
From Canada we headed into Washington and crossed into Oregon. These two states were beautiful and while we stopped in Portland to visit family, my college friend Mike Price also joined us. His trip was spontaneous. He jumped on a flight from Alaska, landed in Portland and we headed to REI to get him a bike. We were honored he decided to cycle with us for HBCF. He rode with us through Oregon and into Northern California.
Upon our arrival into the Bay Area, we were greeted by the kind women of HERS Breast Cancer Foundation. These amazing women provided us with warm beds to stay in, hearty meals and a great event to celebrate our arrival. It was great to finally meet all these women and put faces with their names. Our timing was perfect, as we were also able to attend the Annual KEEP Abreast Event and I was flattered to have the pleasure of sounding the horn to start the 10K run/5K run and walk. Everyone was very appreciative for our efforts, which put our mission into a new perspective and made us even more determined to complete this journey and meet our goal of raising $15,000 for HBCF.
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 leave San Diego and look ahead at our stops in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and conclude our journey in Colombia. We currently average about 80 miles per day. Once we wrap up in Colombia, our total miles will accumulate to 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). Thanks to all of our supporters and HERS Breast Cancer Foundation. We’re still accepting and are very grateful for any generous donations.
Neil Walsky, October 2012