Rhonda Rose, pictured here with husband Chris Peterson, is riding across most of the country in honor of Peterson after his death in March. Photo courtesy of Rhonda Rose
Rather than spiral into self-pity after her husband’s death, Rhonda Rose decided to use the memory of his adventuresome spirit as an inspiration to bicycle 2,500 miles across the northern United States in search of resolution and a cure.
After Rose’s husband, Chris Peterson, died from colon cancer on March 2, she decided she wanted to do two things: raise money for the Thomas Cancer Center in Sequim and go on an adventure.
She is accomplishing both of those goals while searching for emotional peace and challenging her physical limits though what was one of Peterson’s favorite activities.
In mid-May, Rose embarked on a six-week bicycle trek from Fargo, N.D., to Bar Harbor, Maine, along with 22 other women, a trip that would allow her to be alone with her thoughts. According to a schedule detailed on her blog, her ride is slated to end today, Wednesday, June 29, finishing the final 200 miles in two days.
“What really inspired me to do it was right after my husband passed,” Rose said by phone from Niagara Falls, N.Y. “I had a recurring dream before my husband passed that I was biking across the country. I did it to find some emotional healing and internal thinking.”
Rose admitted it can be difficult sometimes to wake up each day to the promise of at least 40-60 miles of biking ahead of her.
“There have been some mornings I wake up at 5:30 a.m. and I say to myself, ‘You’re going to do what?’” Rose said. However, she thrives on her husband’s inspiration and with repetition has come progress.
“The most challenging part was the first six days, to get on the bike for six days in a row and sit on the seat,” Rose said. “Now, I’m in my zone. Yesterday, we rode 45 miles and I was saying to myself, ‘Wow, it was an easy day.’ Even 60 miles is an easy day.”
The most challenging days are when the rides approach 100 miles, Rose added.
Although the women start the day’s ride at the same time, each has her own pace, which allows Rose to ponder and remember.
“Even though I start in a group, I probably do half the day by myself,” Rose said. “My husband was very adventurous — hiking, biking. He always reminded me to look up. Look at that bird, look at that field, look at our country.”
Though Rose’s main purpose is to reflect on an emotional past few years, she also felt compelled to do her part to ensure future patients and families receive the same exemplary care that Chris was given at the Thomas Cancer Center in Sequim.
“The people there — the doctors, the nurses — were really great,” Rose said. “I wanted to give back.”
Rose encourages people to donate to the cancer care center by clicking the “donate” link on her blog, www.rhondalinrose.blogspot.com. Rose said 100 percent of the donations will go to the cancer facility.
Throughout her journey, Rose has been updating her blog with daily stories and photos and encourages people to contact her through the site.
“It’s really been touching to have family and friends text me and e-mail me to encourage me,” Rose said. “I’ve had a lot of people that I’ve never met contact me … some people that I haven’t seen in 30 years.”
Although Rose and her comrades are nearing the end of their cross-country trek, the Sequim resident of four years is not ready to relinquish the thrilling and challenging aspects of such an excursion.
“In my family, I am known for pushing the envelope,” Rose said. “I’ve always challenged myself.”
Fully aware that each day is valuable, Rose is determined to keep her husband’s energetic spirit alive, saying she strongly is considering another bicycle trip — this time across New Zealand.
“I feel like it’s my job now to live big and live adventurously because that’s what my husband would have wanted.”