Texas 4000 Journey Comes to a Bittersweet End in Anchorage, Alaska

After biking for 70 days and 4,687 miles, and covering 20 states and five Canadian territories, the 2013 Texas 4000 team will cross the finish line today in Anchorage, Alaska. The Texas 4000 from Austin to Anchorage is the longest annual charity bike ride in the world, and has raised over $4 million for the fight against cancer.

“I can’t believe we’ve made it this far,” says rider Sarah Kettles, BA ’13. “I keep having reality checks.”

Riders make the journey to Anchorage through three routes: Sierra, Rockies, or Ozark. As ride director for the Rockies route, Kettles ensures that her 23 riders make it to Anchorage successfully by scheduling wake-up times, planning meals, and other logistics. The Rockies route is rumored among many Texas 4000 team members to be the most difficult, so she’s had her work cut out for her.

“All the routes have different challenges,” Kettles explains. “Terrain-wise, we’ve dealt with more—we’ve been more isolated, dealt with worse roads.”

The first two weeks of the ride—when the team crossed through Oklahoma and Kansas—were the most taxing not just because of the sweltering heat, but also because the riders had to get used to living and working with each other, Kettles says. Then, of course, there were the occasional crazy days that none of the riders could have anticipated. Kettles reflects on one July day in the Columbia Icefields. During the last 10 miles of the ride it started raining, then the rain turned into sleet and the sleet turned into snow.

“We finally got to the campsite and we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s a snow storm on July 12!’” she says.

After a hard few last miles through the storm, they arrived at camp, made s’mores, and had a guitar singalong.

Experiences like these have caused Kettles and her teammates to grow close since their June 1 departure. At first, they rode in distinct, clique-like groups: fast riders versus the “chill wave” that preferred to hang back. Kettles could tell the team was growing close once these groups mixed up and it wasn’t about speed anymore.

Riders have mixed feelings about coming into the homestretch, she says. Some are tired of being on their bikes and excited to get back to everyday life, but others, like Kettles, are sad that the ride is coming to an end.

“I feel like this is my life now,” she says. “I just get up and get on my bike and I ride somewhere everyday and I don’t really have to worry about anything.”

Besides strengthening her leadership skills, Kettles says that the Texas 4000 has made her into a more hopeful person, and she feels lucky to be a part of it.

“Doing this to fight cancer has just been really cool,” Kettles says. “I think it has been an experience that’s made me look at life a little more positively, and I’m really grateful for that.”

The Texas 4000 was created in 2003 by cancer survivor Chris Condit, BS ’04, MS ’11. To celebrate the ride’s 10th anniversary and to welcome home the 2013 riders, there will be a Texas 4000 Tribute gala at the Austin Music Hall on Saturday, Aug. 24.

The 2013 Texas 4000 team arrives in Alaska on Aug. 5. Photo courtesy Lance Pyburn.

By: Emma Ledford in 40 acres