When Blough lost his wife of 44 years, Shelia, to pancreatic cancer last October, he knew he wanted to do something to honor her.
“Cancer’s such a difficult thing,” Blough said. “And I thought, ‘I want to do something and do my part to fight cancer.’”
Blough had talked with Shelia about taking another cycling tour — he previously biked about 400 miles along the West Coast with her assistance — though he laughed in guessing that Shelia would find his current 2,100-plus mile East Coast trip “crazy.”
Blough’s tour will take him through parts of the country he’s always wanted to see, but he’s built the route around institutions that fight cancer: Blough is starting at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, heading east to Florida, then pedaling up the East Coast to finish at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.
He’s asking people to donate to those research centers through links on his website, www.2wheelsagainstcancer.com. On the site, Blough also describes his motivations and describes how the painfully difficult final months and days of Shelia’s life brought both of them closer to God. The cycling trip is “almost a pilgrimage,” Blough said.
He thinks the entire trip will take five to six weeks, averaging 70-80 miles per day.
At one point, Blough considered setting a goal of 100 miles a day, but his son, Rusty, reminded him that “it’s not a race, it’s a ride — and it’s for therapy, too,” he said.
He plans to bike six days a week while taking Sunday off to wash clothes, go to church and “let my muscles recuperate a little bit.” Along the way, Blough plans to stay in hotels, in fellow cycling enthusiasts’ homes, with friends and family and in a tent he’s bringing along as backup. (He’s wagering that the tent, sleeping bag and rollout pad will prove to be worth the extra 6 pounds of weight. “You know I’m going to run into something, just that many miles I’m going to be hitting,” he said.)
Blough initially planned to set out on his trip in September, but a niece in Florida warned that the weather down south would be unbearably hot and humid. So he moved the tour up to April, slashing his expected preparation time.
Blough said he wasn’t able to get a lot of biking time on the road with the rough winter, but he has been taking a pretty intense spin class.
Noting that he’s “pushing 70,” he said the trip is a little daunting, but “I’m pretty resolute.”
Plus, Blough said, “I have my website up; I have people already donated; there’s no time to change my mind.”
He says many people have given him support from Shelia’s diagnosis to the present — ranging from his coworkers at Morrison Maierle to members of his church, Cody Missionary Alliance.
“Life goes on with everybody, but I’m still well supported,” Blough said. “And life goes on with me, too, just different.”
Blough left Cody on Tuesday.