Father, daughter reunite amid cancer awareness ride


It had been seven months since Mokelumne Hill resident Richard Andrews last saw his daughter, Kirby Orosco. She’s a senior at the University of Texas in Austin, which is a long way from Calaveras County.

But on Monday, he got his chance to reunite when the Texas 4000 – a group of UT students bicycling from Texas to Alaska to raise cancer awareness – left Yosemite and rode into Murphys. Andrews drove over to meet up with the group, who was camping out at Horse and Barrel for the night.

“She said when she saw my truck pass her by, she was so excited,” Andrews said. “And she chased me up the hill.”
Twenty-one-year-old Orosco – who spent many summers in Calaveras with her father – is one of 25 riders participating in the Sierra group of riders, and all of them showed up in Murphys tiredbut in good spirits.

“They had come 800 miles when they hit here,” said Marcia Thompson, who lives above Murphys and spent a couple of hours at Horse and Barrel with the riders Monday night. “Only a handful had been bikers before, and some of them are brand new to biking period.”

The Texas 4000 was started 10 years ago by two UT students who had been directly affected by cancer. The organization has raised more than $4 million for cancer research since its inception.

This year’s strenuous bike ride started May 31 and has 79 student cyclists split up into three groups: the Rockies, the Sierra and the Ozarks. Each group travels its respective route volunteering, giving presentations and raising general awareness about cancer, and each rider has a direct connection to someone who’s battled cancer. Orosco is no exception.

“Her great-grandmother is a two-time breast cancer survivor,” explained Andrews. “So she’s doing this to honor her great-grandmother.”

“There are just so many people that are going through cancer,” echoed Ryan Van Cleave, owner and operator of Horse and Barrel in Murphys who also lost his father, Ed, to cancer at the end of April. “And they all had people they’re riding for, so it was just a neat effort on their part.”

Van Cleave’s decision to offer Horse and Barrel as a Calaveras pit stop for the riders stemmed not only from his own direct connection with cancer, but he also wanted the Texas students to get a taste of country living.

“I just thought it would be a good opportunity to give them some flavor of Calaveras County,” he said. “They’re leaving with a taste of what our county’s like. Of all the places they stopped, I wanted them to walk away with an authentic experience.”

They enjoyed chili, potatoes, a bonfire and s’mores – a picture-perfect setting to sit around and share stories. And Van Cleave got a chance to tell his own, which included the raw emotions that accompany his dad’s recent passing.

By the next morning, the riders were up by 4 a.m. and had breakfast an hour later that allowed them the full “backyard-to-table” experience, with eggs straight from the ranch.

By 6 a.m., the group was huddled together, shouting out its customary dedications for the day of riding that awaited them.

“When they left that morning, they dedicated the ride to my dad and our family, so it was really cool,” said Van Cleave. “They’re just a great group.”

Then they were back on the road for the next leg of their journey, which took them up Ebbetts Pass on their way to Lake Tahoe.

Andrews decided to accompany the riders, and his daughter, on their next leg.

“Oh my gosh, they had to climb that pass!” he said, admiring their perseverance and thankful to have the coincidental opportunity to spend some time with his daughter. “So I met (Kirby) at the top with some cold strawberries.”

The riders are expected to roll into Anchorage Aug. 8, after nearly 4,500 miles.

By Stephen Crane