Amy Giver always wanted to ride her bike across the country.
And a plea from a cousin concerning a friend with a blood cancer prompted her to embark on the journey of a lifetime.
Giver made a stop on her cross country journey in Harmony on Tuesday night, spending the night in her tent next to the Harmony Fire Department. She ate breakfast there Wednesday before heading on her way to Charlotte.
She said her goal is to raise awareness of blood cancers and encourage folks to become donors through Be The Match, a marrow donation organization.
Giver said her trip began in her home town of Sunnyvale, Calif. and will end in Atlanta, Ga. She’s biked through the Rocky Mountains, across the plains of Kansas and down the Blue Ridge Parkway.
It was a journey that began with a phone call from her cousin. Giver said she’s traveled in Thailand and has a lot of Thai friends. Her cousin called her about a friend of Thai descent who needs a marrow transplant. Matches for those of minority descent are tough to find.
“ I contacted all of my Thai friends, and that was what got me involved,” she said.
Giver said she didn’t know about Be The Match and, after finding out about it and the ease of registering, it was a humbling experience. A DNA swab is all that is required to register, she said.
She decided to get as many people involved in Be The Match as she could, starting with her friends in the CrossFit workout program. Since the ideal Be The Match candidates are healthy adults between the ages of 18 to 44, CrossFit seemed the best place to start, she said.
After launching this campaign, she decided to wed it with something she’d always wanted to do – take a cross country bike ride. A veteran traveler – she said she’s traveled in South America, Thailand and Europe – she’d actually seen little of the United States, and a bike ride seemed the perfect way to change that.
The opportunity presented itself a few months ago, and Giver hopped on her bike and began her journey, first riding north into Oregon and then east to Idaho. She dropped down into Utah, largely because she wanted to see Bryce Canyon. She then rode into Colorado, most of the time following established bike trails and visiting campgrounds along the way.
Giver said friends and relatives donated money for her trip, but she decided to save as much as possible by avoiding motels and camping out along the way. At the end of her journey, she said, she will donate whatever she has left over to funding for blood cancer research.
Giver said after the mountains of Utah and Colorado she welcomed the flat expanses of Kansas, even though fellow bikers warned her it was “boring.”
She said she found the countryside through Kansas anything but boring, especially when she found herself riding with a tailwind that she suddenly realized was a strong thunderstorm. Miles from the nearest town and riding on a road with no ditches to take cover, she pedaled furiously. Then she realized the sky in front of her was an ominous black as well. “Lightning was stabbing the ground,” she said.
Giver said she checked the weather app on her phone and it advised the closest lightning strike was 0.0 miles in front of her. At that point, a semi came along. She waved him down and asked what she should do. “I’d get in the truck,” he replied and she did. They lashed her bike to the back of the cab and he dropped her off in the next town.
She continued her ride across the Midwest and then into Tennessee but found it more difficult to find campgrounds. She thought back to an experience in Colorado when she stopped at a fire department and ended up spending the night. As she continued on her trip, she relied on law enforcement or fire department personnel to point her in the right direction for a place to stay.
That’s what led her to Harmony Fire Department earlier this week. After riding down the Blue Ridge Parkway, she got onto U.S. 21, and, about 20 miles north of Harmony, she stopped at a gas station. She told the people at the gas station that she planned to ride about 20 more miles and they told her that would put her in Harmony. “They said that’s a good place to stop,” she said.
And it was. She stopped at the Harmony Fire Department and found a welcoming group of people. She was treated to a shower and then spent the night in her tent.
The next morning, Kim Lester, wife of firefighter Brandon Lester, with help from her son, Lane, and firefighter Jeremiah Campbell, cooked a hearty southern breakfast to provide Giver with the energy for the next 60 miles of her trip.
After breakfast, Giver packed up her tent and her gear and set out on her way.