Katie Kuppersmith, a New Trier graduate from Glencoe, wanted a physical as well as a mental challenge before starting college in the fall.
So the 18-year-old, who hadn’t done any biking, decided on a 3,000 mile, coast-to-coast jaunt from Tybee Island, Georgia, to Santa Monica, Cal.
The trip, which began June 27 and ended Aug 6., took a total of 44 days with Kuppersmith and fellow cyclists rising every morning before daybreak and riding between 80 to 100 miles a day for eight to 10 hours a day.
But to make the trip more meaningful, Kuppersmith also decided to use it as an opportunity to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
“In school, I’ve always challenged myself academically and wanted to continue to challenge myself. I also thought it would be a great way to see the county,” Kuppersmith said.
“It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve done, but also the most rewarding,” she added.
Kuppersmith started the trip with 11 other teenagers from St. Louis, New York, New Orleans, Connecticut and California, plus two leaders from Overland Summer Trips and Tours.
However, about the fourth or fifth day, one of the cyclists was going down a steep hill, fell off her bike, hit her head, and had a seizure, Kuppersmith said.
The cyclist is all right now, but couldn’t continue the trip, she added.
However, it was the ride across the desert that was the most daunting. In one day, they biked from Needles to Ludlow, California, when both the mileage and the temperature was more than 100.
“That was intimidating, but on that day — and only that day — we had a support van following us with water and snacks,” she added.
Kuppersmith also spoke of memorable events such as a police escort over the Mississippi River bridge, countless acts of generosity by well-wishers, and pedestrian-lined streets of people cheering them as they entered small towns.
A real high for the cyclists was making the climb to Wolf Creek Pass in the Rockies, which had an elevation of 10,800 feet, the highest elevation of the trip.
“We played music and were dancing around, just because of the exhilaration of reaching it,” she added.
However, the greatest high point of the trip was reaching their final destination — the Santa Monica Pier, she noted.
“For us getting to the pier was something that we had thought about for all 44 days, but we had never really let ourselves imagine what that moment would be like,” Kuppersmith said.
“I remember riding down Santa Monica Boulevard and being in awe that we were finally there. But we also had mixed emotions — happy to have achieved our goal, but sad because our journey was coming to an end,” she added.
One of the most important things Kuppersmith learned, she said, during the daunting effort was the importance of team work.
“None of us could have done this alone. I have so much respect for every member of the group,” she added.
Katie’s mom and dad, Nancy and Michael Kuppersmith, met her at the end of the bike trail to congratulate their daughter on her successful adventure.
She had not only completed the trip before leaving for Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., to study pre-med, but raised more than $7,000 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.