Top of the Morning, July 5, 2014

Top of the Morning, July 5, 2014

The scenery on both coasts might be better. But for a group of Illini currently biking from New York to San Francisco, nothing can top Nebraska.

The Illini 4000 — a non-profit made up of UI students and alumni whose slogan is "Fighting Cancer On Two Wheels" — crossed into Colorado this week with pleasant memories of the Cornhusker state.

"It still amazes everyone how kind strangers can be," said rider Isalia Ramirez, a senior from Cicero. "When we were riding to Kimball (Neb.) we got caught in a severe thunderstorm — and by severe I mean winds at 55 mph and pouring rain with hail. We had to ride up to random houses to seek shelter and no one thought twice about opening there doors for us."

There's more.

"Nebraska was a long state to get through," Ramirez said. "The thing that kept us excited to reach the end was Carhenge (yes, it is a replica of Stonehenge made out of cars, it was great.). After five days of long, empty stretches you can say we were going a little nutty and had a slaphappy giddiness to reach this (what we claim should be) national monument. It did indeed live up to the hyped excitement from the entire team."

And more.

"On the longest ride day in Illini 4000 history (113.6 miles) we coincidentally met the Hoffman family, who started the Team Jack Foundation for pediatric brain cancer research," Ramirez said. "Jack Hoffman is the 8-year-old star player for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, running a touchdown while beating cancer last year (during the team's spring game). We met his entire family and it was just a crazy great experience.

"It was not only inspirational to meet a beautiful family but it was also a nice reminder for why we are doing this. Sometimes we get caught up in just making it through the day, especially when it is a hard one, but when things like this happen, when people are moved by what we do and show solidarity, the feeling is indescribable."

The 20-member team spent Fourth of July in Steamboat Springs, Colo. They started their annual trek May 24 in New York and are due in San Franciso on Aug. 3.

"Crossing the George Washington Bridge in New York was an amazing feeling," Ramirez said. "It was a pretty site but it was also our first riding day and introduction to what we would be seeing and feeling. It was one of the first times it hit me that we were part of a bigger thing, crossing this bridge alongside 19 other people with the same jerseys and fighting the same battles."

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