Beth Langenderfer, a Jackson resident and Bowling Green senior, hopped on her bicycle and pedaled across the nation as part of Bike the US for MS.
Each mile Beth Langenderfer pedaled, she dedicated.
This mile was for her cousin, Ashley. That mile was for the parent of a friend.
And that’s the way it went for two full months. Mile by mile from Virginia all the way to San Francisco. Langenderfer rode her bike all the way across the United States because she wanted to make an impact on the lives of those she knew battling Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
They are the reasons that Langenderfer, Jackson resident and Bowling Green senior, hopped on her bicycle and pedaled across the nation as part of Bike the US for MS.
While the trip was a challenge, Langenderfer found strength through it. She found comfort in the way it brought her and Ashley closer together.
"The trip has been a cool experience for us to talk about and connect over," Langenderfer said.
An avid cyclist, Langenderfer didn’t think twice about participating in Bike the US for MS. SHe was comfortable trekking across all sorts of terrain with 17 strangers – fellow riders ranging in age from 18 to 62.
The ride began June 1 in Yorktown, Va. where, true to tradition, Langenderfer dipped her front tire in the waters of the Atlantic. From there, the bikers wound through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Nevada before reaching California.
"Kansas was really flat,” Langenderfer said, “but the Appalachians, Sierra Nevadas and Ozarks were very treacherous.”
The group rode an average of 70 miles per day, but their daily commute ranged from 50-100 miles depending upon the nearest town to the spot where they stopped for the day.
"We stayed in churches and in a couple of cheap hotels, mostly in small towns with a couple thousand people, and that was my favorite part," Langenderfer said. "The people were so down to earth, loving and caring."
Some days, the group would talk to people while eating at restaurants. Many offered donations when they learned what they were doing. Langenderfer raised about $5,500 before the start of the ride and added a small amount to her total while on the road. If there was no restaurant nearby, the riders would buy food from a store they passed or cook out at their campsite.
Langenderfer's favorite stop was the small town of Hindmann, Ky., where she attended a concert by a harmonica player who had performed at the Grand Ole Opry.
"The whole town joined in on square dancing,” Langenderfer said. “I had no idea what I was doing, but they let me dance and I had a blast.”
In Middlegate, Nev., a town with a population of just 17, she and her fellow riders prepared to camp out. They noticed that their 17 tents outnumbered the town’s five buildings.
Page 2 of 2 - Langenderfer completed her trip days later and commemorated the moment by dipping her rear wheel in the Pacific Ocean before shipping her bike back to Ohio. While her bike headed directly home, Langenderfer hopped a train for Lake Tahoe to spend a week relaxing with her aunt.
This summer – this trip – gave Langenderfer a new perspective on the world and her place in it.
"I was really nervous what they (the other riders) would be like, but it was exciting to hear their stories and make new friends," Langenderfer said. "We were one crazy family by the end and we all have our quirks and weird things about us, but somehow we all fit."
Reach Andy at 330-899-2872 or andy.harris@TheSuburbanite.com.
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB