Local woman bikes 3,660 miles to conquer lung disease
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 15, 2008 1:35 PM
Stephanie Hubbell thought her friend would be impressed.
She had ridden her bicycle more than 30 miles, through Pikeville and the towns that surround it.
Stephanie Hubbell recently returned from a month-and-a-half trek across the country. The 19-year-old rode her bike more than 3,600 miles -- from Seattle, Wash., to Washington, D.C. -- for the American Lung Association.
"I was like, 'Oh my God. I have never ridden that far before,'" she said. "I just thought it was amazing."
Her friend didn't.
"I said, 'You know, I rode 36 miles. Isn't that amazing?'" Stephanie said. "He said, 'Not really. I have an uncle who rode across the country.'"
And so it began.
"I went to work that night and jumped on the Internet to find out how I could do it," Stephanie said. "Two days later, I was signed up."
Just more than seven months later, the 19-year-old was in a Seattle, Wash., park with 36 other riders.
But getting there was not as simple as signing up.
Money would need to be raised for the ride's beneficiary, the American Lung Association.
"It's a great cause, but it was really hard to raise the money in the 'tobacco capital of the world,'" Stephanie said. "I had people not give me money specifically because of what it was for."
And then there was the training -- getting used to being on her bike for much longer than she had back when she was a little girl riding for fun with her mother.
"They told us, 'Train hard. Train hard.' But I didn't have time. I was raising money," Stephanie said. "I did maybe two or three rides -- the longest, maybe 72 miles. ... The first day of (the ride across the country) was 92."
Over mountains, through deserts, across plains and up hills, a Wayne County teen got a firsthand look at her country.
"It's amazing how quickly the terrain can change," she said. "Every state, it's amazing how each state is known for its certain terrain, and how as soon as you get in that state, it changes so quickly into what you expect to see."
At times, she found herself overwhelmed by the beauty of it all.
So as she flipped through pictures from her summer trip, she seemed to relive each scene.
"The mountains in Washington are beautiful. The mountains in Pennsylvania are beautiful. The plains are beautiful," Stephanie said. "The Badlands, that's something else. It's really hard to explain. ... We went through Amish country, in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and that was really cool."
And there was that group of antelope.
"We were riding along this field, and all of a sudden, you see them jumping along with us and looking at us," she said. "They went along with us for a while."
But not every experience was quite so picturesque.
There are only three days between a group of exhausted riders and Washington, D.C. -- their finish line and the end of a 3,660-mile journey.
Stephanie had gotten used to sleeping in her tent, or in a dorm room at whichever college the group happened upon.
But some aspects of the routine were getting old.
"The third-to-last day, they called it the 'Final exam' -- 100-and-something miles through the mountains of Pennsylvania. It was crazy difficult," Stephanie said. "There was 'The dreaded hill.' It was six miles, really steep. Me and my friend, we stopped at a bicycle shop and could see the mountain we had to go up. It was like, 'Whoa.'"
Neither wanted to follow the 34 others on their way up that slope.
So they attempted a shortcut.
"We got lost and actually ended up doing more miles and more hills than they did," Stephanie said. "And there was this tunnel that was about a mile long, and it was so dark, we couldn't see both ends of the tunnel. We didn't have lights or anything."
For Stephanie, reaching the finish line was about more than the $5,000 she raised for the American Lung Association.
It was about more than the friendships made along that cross-country route.
And it was certainly about something more than proving to that high school buddy that she, too, could conquer a long-distance ride.
For this particular young woman, staring down mountains and blending in with a group of antelope, was about proving something to herself.
"Everything is in your mind. Ninety percent of accomplishing something is thinking it in your mind," Stephanie said. "You really can do anything. You just have to believe in yourself."
And to think, it started with some playful prodding.
To read more about Stephanie's trip across the country, see her blog: stephsbigride.blogspot.com
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