Two years ago, four Pittsburgh-area women announced they would bicycle across the country to raise awareness of pulmonary hypertension. And 3,021 miles and 175¼ hours after the Oceanside, Calif., start line, the team ended their bicycling trek in Annapolis, Md., at the Race Across America (RAAM) finish line.
But don’t call this the end, they say.
“The journey to raise awareness and find a cure for pulmonary hypertension doesn’t stop now,” Patricia George, M.D., of the UPMC pulmonary hypertension and lung-transplant programs, said soon after she and her Team PHenomenal Hope mates — Stacie Truszkowski of UPMC, Ryanne Palermo and Anne-Marie Alderson — wheeled to the Annapolis finish sometime around 10:35 p.m. June 21.
Highlights of the seven-day, cycling adventure include:
Beautiful sights: The Pacific; the Salton Sea from a 4,000-foot vantage known as The Glass Elevator; the Arizona desert; the northern Arizona mountains; Monument Valley, Utah; the Rockies; the Appalachians; and the finish.
Scary sight: Palermo being blown nearly 15 feet sideways — from the highway’s double-yellow line past the white fog line in the shoulder — and nearly blown off a 7,000-foot-high Rockies Mountaintop by 50-mph wind gusts at LaVeta Pass, Colo., until her mountain-biking strength controlled her bike.
Cut-the-sleeves-off hot: The California and Arizona deserts, of course, but shadeless Kansas and Illinois were nearly 100 degrees with high humidity.
Jacket-and-pants cold: Northern Arizona and the Rockies at night.
Animal kingdom: Armadillos, coyotes, wild dogs, wild drivers, snakes under bike tires, bugs to follow-van interior lights, deer, elk, jackrabbits.
Celebrities: Pippa Middleton, sister-in-law to England’s Prince William (a horde of paparazzi at the start-line!), BMX and former video-game star Dave Mirra, and – when it came to PH patients who by the dozens made a 2-hour bus trip to visit them briefly in Bloomington, Ind., and watched the finish by laptop Skype – Team PHenomenal Hope. (See video.)