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Grant's Getaways: Carly's Crew

Four friends who love to ride long distance and are now prepping for the ride of their lives to help save other lives.

PORTLAND, Ore. — July mornings arrive early and cool and offer long distance cyclists the best time to gather and train.

That is especially true for “Carly’s Crew;” four friends who love to ride long distance and are now prepping for the ride of their lives to help save other lives.

It is a ride of a lifetime reaching coast to coast, from Anacortes, Washington to Annapolis, Maryland: 3100 miles! They plan to cycle the distance in 35 days and fight cancer each mile of the way.

But is it a continental dream or a cycling nightmare? You see, they must pedal more than 100,000 feet of elevation gain – during the often-scorching weeks of August.

Carly’s Crew includes Sally Miller, Diane Cass, Toni Hartung, Christian Melbostad and his wife, Amanda Melbostad.

They are riding the incredibly long distance to honor one of their own: Carly VanAart. She was a friend, a coach and a teammate. Carly was diagnosed with Leukemia and that was followed by successive rounds of treatments. Sadly, after 18 months of treatments, Carly passed away in early June – at just age 40.

According to close friend, Diane Cass, “We are doing our ride to honor those who have passed and those who are fighting the fight. Specifically, our friend Carly who was just a presence…a positive, energetic person who always had big smile on her face! Carly was one of those people you really, genuinely enjoyed being around and wanted to be around them more.”

The riders agree that Carly may have had cancer, but cancer did not have her and so they call themselves Carly’s Crew. She is their motivation. She is their tailwind.

While Carly inspires their Epic Challenge, Amanda Melbostad is their lifeline for comfort and support. She will provide food, water and welcome rest.

Her husband, Christian, will cycle the miles while she drives them in an RV that the couple bought exclusively for the trip. She said the plan is to drive “hopscotch style,” providing the support: “25 miles ahead then stop and wait for teammates to catch up.”

‘People like Sally Miller have such a huge vision,” said Melbostad. “I mean, ‘bike across the country and oh, by the way I want to raise a hundred thousand dollars for the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society too.’ Sally’s goal is such a huge amount of money, but that ambition made it easy for me to hop in and ask, 'how can I help?'”

“It is inspirational and motivational,” said Michael Hilliard, spokesperson for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. “In a time when we feel so disconnected with other people or we feel that can’t make change, this is a group of people doing exactly that – making a difference to save lives.”

Sally Miller is the leader of Carly’s Crew. She has been a long-distance cyclist for decades. The cross-country ride to support cancer research and treatments and medicines was her idea.

Still, the lifelong Oregonian admits, there is tremendous unknown and unforgiving territory ahead of the team during August when temperatures will be high, the pavement even hotter.

“There are a lot of soft trails in the Midwest and back east, so we’ll be on those as much as possible,” said Miller. “The route is mostly rural with what we hope will be, rural roadways. This is not a race. We are not racing to get to the other side of the country.”

Miller has traveled this path before. She has led 20-person teams each year the past 20 in a program called Team in Training. That program is a 6-month long training schedule that culminates in a 100-mile circuit of Lake Tahoe each June. The event raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

LLS is close to Miller’s heart. Her sister, Mary, survived leukemia while her father, Richard Miller, did not.

“We want to find a cure for this nasty disease,” said Miller. “This is our way to help do that. When you put a reason behind it and you put an effort into that, it gives people an appreciation for how serious and passionate you are about something. That is what’s going to get us through the many challenges of this trip!”

Carly’s Crew teammate, Christian Melbostad, offered that Miller is a terrific leader who leads by example. “She (Sally) is fantastic! She is patient, got grit, and she’s got a good attitude. Plus, a good sense of humor and that’s important on a ride of this scale. Sally’s just a great person and made it easy for me to fall in line her and say, ‘if you’re going to bike across the country, I’m happy to do it with you.'”

Longtime Team in Training cyclist and Carly’s Crew supporter, Toni Hartung, said that there is strong reason to help the team’s efforts. “They have that little something extra in that they are not doing it for themselves, but something much, much bigger! That’s what makes them special people.”

So, Carly’s Crew have gathered to come and prepare to see America – on two wheels - and offer the promise of brighter times ahead.

“This trip,” added Miller, “is for all the people who can’t and all the people who have or will have cancer. We will find a cure. That is our goal and our mission.”

Contact Carly’s Crew: info@epicchallenge2021.com

You can support Carly’s Crew and their Epic challenge: The Epic Challenge (lls.org)

Be sure to follow my Oregon adventures via the new Grant’s Getaways Podcast:

Each segment is a story-telling session where I relate behind the scenes stories from four decades of travel and television reporting.

You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon travels and adventures in the Grant’s Getaways book series, including:

"Grants Getaways I," Photography by Steve Terrill

"Grant's Getaways II," Photography by Steve Terrill

Grant’s Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures,” Photography by Jeff Kastner

Grant’s Getaways: Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon,” Photography by Jeff Kastner

Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures with the Kids,” Photography by Jeff Kastner

The collection offers hundreds of outdoor activities across Oregon and promises to engage a kid of any age.

My next book, “Grant’s Getaways: Another 101 Oregon Adventures” will be published in 2022.