BLACKFOOT – Imagine signing up to take a 4,000-mile bike ride from Austin, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska.

Imagine doing it in 60-120-mile sections, primarily on smaller highways and back roads and crossing through Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and through three Canadian provinces on your way to Alaska.

You are going to do it with 90 people, broken into three groups and taking three different routes, joining up for the final 10 days for the ride into Anchorage.

All of the applicants are University of Texas students in good standing, willing to put in the time and work to be successful.

This is what the Texas 4000 mission is all about. The most important part of the trip is that the group is doing it to raise money for cancer research.

“Each year we start out with about 300 applicants,” Armando Arizte said. “Those 300 are whittled down to around 90 people who meet the expectations and get the initial fundraising done to be able to participate in the bike ride.”

Each of the applicants must go through some special training, from leadership development, physical training, cancer awareness outreach, volunteer opportunities, and philanthropic commitment. Each person must raise at least $4,500 before they are assigned to a group that will actually get to participate in the ride to Alaska.

“Every one of us works to gather up the donations to make the $4,500 or more,” Arizte said. “I think that the highest amount raised this year was around $30,000. Everyone is different and has different contacts to try and raise the money.”

The group also will gather at various locations on the trip and ask curious visitors for donations or contributions and all of that money is used to add to the collection as the trip goes north, no matter which of the three groups the participant is part of.

“I got started because my grandfather passed from cancer when I was a freshman in high school,” Arizte said. “I felt lost for quite a while and really didn’t know where to go or what to do. This organization has helped to bring me back to reality.”

The three groups — Sierra, Rockies or Ozarks — travel a different route to get to the joining point just south of Anchorage for the final 10 days.

The “Rockies” group made the trip from Logan, Utah, to Blackfoot on Wednesday. They planned on riding to Victor on Thursday and today will make the ride over the Teton Pass into Jackson, Wyo.

From there, they will go north along the eastern edge of Yellowstone Park into Montana and then north to Canada where they will stop in Calgary.

“Today was day 26 for our group out of the 70 days scheduled,” Arizte said. “We ride anywhere from 60 to 120 miles per day, depending on the scheduled stops.”

There are a lot of supporters along the way. Nightly stops are planned with groups and organizations that want to help.

Food is provided along with showers and overnight accommodations whether it is in a home or a church or a school. Nobody is turned down that wants to help the group.

This year’s Rockies group consists of 28 riders, ages 19-23, and all come from different backgrounds. Most are from Texas, but there are a few transplants from other states.

“We are a very diverse group and we have all been able to bond together,” Arizte said. “There is a lot of camaraderie in this group. We pick each other up and keep each other’s spirits high. It is a long way on a bike to go 4,000 miles and cover the terrain that we cover.”

As the bikers pedaled into the parking lot at the Blackfoot Christian Fellowship church Wednesday, there were high fives and hugs and congratulations among the entire group. The 120-mile trek from Logan was the longest that the group had undertaken since leaving Austin 26 days ago. They were all glad to be here and still in one piece.

“We have been pretty good as far as injuries and accidents go,” Arizte said. “We haven’t lost anyone and nobody has been injured. We have a few bumps and bruises, but nothing serious.”

It is a noble thing that this group the Texas 4000 is doing. Their motto is that they are “Fighting Cancer Every Mile,” and they mean it. They are kind, generous, and on a great ride and mission.

Additional information about the organizations can be found on their website at: www.texas4000.org.

Contributions are gladly accepted at any time.

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