Yellowstone and a Tribute

At this point, 24 days in, I've cycled 1151 miles. Hard to believe I'm a quarter of the way through my trip. And, I have to say, biking into Yellowstone Park was a highlight. Literally biking through the entrance, paying the fee and cycling the 14 miles to Madison area campground was amazing. It was late afternoon and most cars were leaving the park. After a few miles, I entered into Wyoming! My fourth state.
Cycling thru the Park was a surreal experience. It's so pristine and clean and almost feels like a Disney ride for some strange reason. The animal crossing signs have flashing lights around them and everyone is driving super slow to get a chance to see wildlife. The benefit of being on a bicycle is that you're quiet, see more wildlife as a result of being slower, have a better view of everything and well, it's just plain cooler to see it this way! I got to Madison Campground, which was full, but never for bikers/hikers. I paid my $6.80 and was shown the biker/hiker site, the food storage containers (black bear country) and met two guys- from Germany and cycling from Miami to Missoula. They are almost finished and in fact, I gave them my ACA map for West Yellowstone to Missoula. They offered to give me cash for it, however, they are doing me a benefit by taking something I don't have to carry anymore! They were thrilled and we sat by the fire talking late into the night.

On a different note, wanted to point out that every 3 days or so, I'm wearing a bike jersey that was designed by my ex-husband Jered, but tells of Meg Berte's cancer story. Meg was the daughter of one if my mom's best friends. Meg was a few years older than I was, however, we ice skated together and sometimes had play dates together. Meg was ahead of me in HS, obviously, but I always knew what was going on with the Berte kids (Tom, Ben and Sira too). Meg was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma when she was 23 years old. She was treated at NYC's Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. She went through aggressive treatment that left her with only 35% lung capacity. She was in remission for 12 years before succumbing to a lung infection due to her lungs being compromised. To read this extraordinary story of Meg, go to : http://megberteowenfund.com/

During her remission, Meg was selected to join Lance Armstrong in 2005 and bicycle across the country for the Tour of Hope, his ride across America to bring awareness to cancer research.When Meg found out she was selected, she asked Jered to design her a bike jersey. We happened to be in NYC and met with Meg one sunny afternoon. She relayed her survivor story to Jered and from there he designed her shirt. The 52 was her clinical trial number, a hornet on the front is what she named her bicycle years prior. Hope, research and family were words of inspiration for her and are within cell-like forms. An anatomical figure is on the front with a star at the heart. An abstract map of the Tour of Hope route from San Diego to Washington DC is on the back. She wore this jersey and we printed many more for her friends and family. I got one that year as well.

I brought this jersey (I'm wearing it in Wyoming sign photo) because Meg lived life similar to me. Our spirits seemed alike in many ways. Everyday I wear her jersey on this trip, I think of her. And I think of her entire family and the extreme loss they've had over the past few years. We never know when our last day may be. Tell people you love, you love them. Be honest. Put yourself out there. Challenge yourself. If tomorrow is my last day, I can say I've lived life. And I've challenged myself while fulfilling a huge goal.

A WarmShowers.org host that I stayed with recently wrote me to say he's been following my blog. I want to share what he wrote because it fits here. "Jess, please accept my humble appreciation for reminding me what a blessing it is to be alive and to be grateful for what I have, versus what I want. And for reminding me that, like you, with my bike, I have the blessing of 1. Helping Mother Earth heal (one less car) and 2. to be able to become closer to her and better appreciate her beauty. Wishing you days filled with serenity and beauty... And just enough challenge to keep you strong."

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