BELFAST, Maine — Each cyclist — some tired, most elated — had a story to tell Sunday afternoon at the finish line after peddling for 180 miles during the American Lung Association’s three-day Trek Across Maine.
But one story was better told by a Colorado woman who didn’t ride but instead cheered on the friends and family members who were riding to honor the memory of her father, who died of lung cancer in February.
Bob Roscoff’s illness was quick, said Beth Wallisch of Loveland, Colo. He was diagnosed last October.
“He lived a good, full life until the end,” she said, holding back tears. “It’s pretty special. Especially on Father’s Day.”
She and the team of riders all wore pins with her dad’s face on it that said “I’m Riding for Bob,” and they meant it. Nothing, it seemed, was going to stop them.
Salty Galvis of Fort Collins made it across Maine despite having gotten into a mountain bike crash two weeks ago in his home state. Because he had a punctured lung, along with four broken ribs, his doctor forbade him from flying as he had planned to do. But he and his wife, Theresa, drove to Maine and joined the other 2,100 riders who started Friday in the mountains of Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry and ended up at the Belfast waterfront.
There they were met by a boisterous crowd that cheered and clapped for all the finishers. After getting their medal, the Colorado riders posed for a smiling photograph in front of the harbor on the picture-perfect June day.
“It was pretty hard breathing,” Galvis said. “But I feel great now that we’re done.”
The goal of the Trek Across Maine is to make people everywhere breathe a little easier, according to Kathleen O’Neill of the American Lung Association Northeast.
“Our mission is really to save lives by preventing lung disease and improving lung health,” she said.
The bike ride is the largest fundraising event nationwide for the lung association. She said that organizers hope this year’s trek, the 28th annual, will raise a total of $1.8 million for the mission.
One man, Jeff Smith of Belfast, said that the trek was his first — “and last.”
“It’s been on my bucket list for years,” said Smith, a diabetic who said that he rode in honor of the clinic that takes care of him.
He had a personal goal of raising $1,000 for the American Lung Association, and although he hasn’t quite made it, he doesn’t plan to stop fundraising yet.
“I’m still going,” Smith said.
He was in good company. The riders included Olympic luge athlete Julia Clukey of Augusta and more than 200 people who are part of the L.L. Bean Trek Across Maine cycling team.
Another rider with a powerful story to tell was Parker Christensen of the U.S. Navy, who is stationed aboard the USS Michael Murphy in Brunswick.
Christensen’s bike had a big sticker that read, “Michael Murphy Memorial Edition,” and he was happy to share details of Murphy’s life and heroic 2005 death in Afghanistan — a life that inspired him to join the armed services.
Murphy joined the military after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Navy Seal and three other men wound up getting ambushed in Kabul province by more than a hundred Taliban fighters, Christensen said.
“They were severely outnumbered. There was a huge, huge firefight,” he said. “All of them got extremely wounded.”
They weren’t able to use the radio to communicate with a support team, but Murphy, who had a cellphone in his pocket, went in the open to get reception and make a call for help. He was mortally wounded but help did arrive, in the form of a helicopter.
Sadly, the helicopter was shot down too, with 16 people aboard dying. Only one man survived the battle that day, Christensen said. He put the names of all the men who died on his bicycle.
“People asked about it all the time,” he said of the other cyclists on the trek. “I love sharing the story. He was a true American patriot. It was just a huge honor to ride for him.”
He said that he was asked to ride in the trek at the last minute, and that it was the third time he ever had been on a road bike.
“It was fun,” Christensen said. “I believe it was the spirit of Michael Murphy pushing me. Motivating me.”