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Williamsburg, VA

A Cross-Country Biking Trip to Raise Awareness and Funding for Cancer Immunotherapy Research

I like that CRI is directly involved in research for immunotherapy.


In memory of his lifelong friend, Bryce Given, Nolan Beck and his wife, Ileana, decided to push the limits of their endurance and athleticism—and raise important funds for lifesaving research along the way. In June 2015, they rode their bicycles 626 miles from Milwaukee, WI, to Fargo, ND, as part of a multi-year challenge to bike across the United States, and were successful in raising nearly $4,000 for the Cancer Research Institute!

CRI connected with Nolan once he was safely back at home to hear about his trip and the inspiration behind it.


How did you first hear about the Cancer Research Institute?
We like to use our bicycles to raise money for charity. We are always on the lookout for organizations that support causes we are interested in or have a tie to, and that are efficiently run. Since we are really in to cycling, we heard about CRI from the New York Ride to Conquer Cancer. After a little research, we determined that we wanted to raise funds for CRI.  Although we couldn’t participate in the New York Ride, we decided to ride on our own and raise funds independently.

What resonates with you about CRI’s mission?
I like that CRI is directly involved in research for immunotherapy. I think immunotherapy is an important approach to the treatment of cancer.

What experience have you had with cancer?
I have known a number of people who have battled cancer, starting with my father when I was 10 years old. Most recently, my lifelong friend, from when I was in elementary school, was lost to lymphoma. We had kept in touch for over 40 years, and I can say without a doubt that he is missed by many people.

How did you come up with the idea to bike from Milwaukee, WI, to Fargo, ND?
My wife and I are riding coast-to-coast, from Yorktown, Virginia, to Astoria, Oregon. This has been a goal of mine since 1976, and it generally takes about three months to complete. Neither of us can take that much time off of work, so we are doing it in segments. The first segment was from Williamsburg, VA, to Cleveland, Ohio. The second segment was from Traverse City, Michigan, to Cleveland, down the east shoreline of Lake Michigan. This year, we started in Milwaukee, on the other side of Lake Michigan, and rode to Fargo. Subsequent legs are Fargo to Billings, Montana, then Billings to Lewiston, Idaho, and Lewiston to Astoria. We may follow that up with Homer to Fairbanks, Alaska.

What was the most surprising part of your trip?
The most surprising portion of the trip was riding through a 3/4 mile long tunnel in western Wisconsin. Inside the tunnel, the temperature dropped low enough that the entire tunnel was filled with fog. The tunnel is long enough that you can’t see one end from the other which results in total darkness. Outside of our headlight beams, nothing could be seen. It was literally “raining” inside the tunnel, and we hadn’t donned any rain gear. We were soaked! Throughout the tunnel, we could hear what sounded like running water and even waterfalls. It was very odd hearing all of that without the sense of sight. And did I mention that the tunnel was full of bats?

What was most rewarding about your experience?
I feel the entire trip itself is a rewarding experience! I think that cycling along country roads gives you a “micro” view of the country, as opposed to the “macro” view you get when traveling by car, plane, or train. It allows you to see parts of the country that you don’t see using any other form of transportation. Most importantly, we were able to raise awareness and funds for CRI.

Anything else you want to share with others about your story?
I would like to impress upon the reader that a trip of this type can fairly easily be done by anyone. Although this trip was 626 miles in length, anyone with a bicycle can do an overnight trip or longer. There are many resources available on the web and in print form. Start with short trips and eventually work up to longer trips and next thing you know you do multiple overnights. And if you are so inclined, you can use your cycling to raise money as well!

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