The last 69 days have been life changing for Ali Straub, who has been riding with a group of young adults from Baltimore to San Francisco as part of a cancer-awareness bicycle journey.

The 24-year-old grad student at Temple University in Philadelphia is part of a group riding more than 4,000 miles on behalf of the Baltimore-based Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

She raised $4,500, as did her fellow riders for the 12th annual “4K for Cancer” cross-country fundraising ride.

The group may have started their trip as strangers, but thousands of miles and many volunteer hours later, “we are united by this common cause,” she said.

Along the route her team has made stops to volunteer at hospitals, cancer centers, nonprofits and to help young adults who have been affected by cancer.

The group is set to arrive at Crissy Field in San Francisco around noon Saturday after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on the 70th day of their ride.

Straub’s mother, Paula, will be there to welcome her, as will other riders’ family members, she said.

The mother and daughter will both be in San Francisco for the first time. The Straubs are from New Jersey.

The riders will dip their front tires into the San Francisco Bay more than two months after dipping their back tires into the Baltimore River.

The group of 26 cyclists made it to California earlier this week and stopped in Lake Tahoe before heading down to the Yosemite area. Thursday they arrived in the Napa Valley. Straub said she was ready to unwind from a 62-mile day with a glass of local wine.

In the days before their California arrival the team had crossed through Nevada.

As for the five days through the Silver State, Straub said, “that was rough, there’s not a whole lot there.” She reflected on the beauty of riding through the Appalachians and onward to Utah where she said it seemed like there were endless national parks.

As the trip comes to a close, Straub said it’s “bittersweet because I’m having such a fun time. I’m bummed that it’s almost over.”

She said she got involved with the ride because she’s “trying to be there for young adults,” a demographic she said is often under-supported with cancer assistance and services.

“You can always be there and be supportive even if you’ve never been directly affected by cancer,” she said.

Program manager Stephen Hersey, who did the ride in 2011, said the experience is “physical, emotionally, and mentally draining,” but that participants “come out on other end as a much stronger person.”

He said riders sign up because they “want to do something in the face of cancer.” He acknowledged there are other ways to give back to the cancer fight, but “this is a huge event.”

Each day the ride is dedicated to someone affected by cancer. “It provides motivation to finish the ride,” he said.

Along the route, local organizations, eateries and community centers offer the team free food and lodging—making the ride low-cost for participants.

This summer, Hersey said the average rider raised more than $5,200.

Other rides are finishing in Seattle, Portland, Ore., and San Diego.

More information about The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults is available at:

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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