A group of college students in the midst of a bicycle trek from Texas to Alaska will later this month pass through Palos Heights, where a resident will house them for a night and provide them a taste of Chicago.
Ann Engelmann, who lives in the city’s Ishnala subdivision, will play host to 24 University of Texas students who on June 1 headed out from Austin on what will be a 4,500-mile journey to Anchorage. The cyclists are participating in the Livestrong Texas 4000, and on June 22 will ride from Champaign to Palos Heights. Engelmann will provide the riders a place to stay and wash some laundry, and will feed them classic Chicago foods including deep-dish pizza and Italian beef.
Engelmann’s niece, University of Texas student Tina Beigelbeck, is the director for the Ozark route of the cross-continental bike ride to America’s Last Frontier. Two other groups of students will ride to Alaska via the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountain routes.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” Engelmann said of having the students at her home. “My niece called me up a year and a half ago and said, ‘I’m going to do this ride from Austin, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska, and I’m like, ‘what?’”
Beigelbeck is from Petaluma, Calif., but has always considered Palos Heights a sort of second home, according to Engelmann. The 22-year-old history major is the daughter of Engelmann’s late brother, Tom, who grew up here. The two women have always been close, and grew closer after Tom’s death six years ago.
“My niece really wanted [her fellow riders] to spend some time here,” Engelmann said. “It’s kind of home for the Biegelbeck family, so it holds a special place in her heart and I think she wanted everyone to see it.”
As ride director, Beigelbeck is responsible for overseeing several subcommittees that have secured host families and other places where the students can stay along the way. Beigelbeck during the first conversation with Engelmann threw out the idea of the riders staying in Palos for the night, to which Engelmann without thinking too much about it said she would be interested.
“Then she called me back a couple months later and said, ‘Remember that conversation we had? Were you serious?’ Engelmann recalled. “I told her I’m willing to have the group, but that I don’t know how this is going to function. I have limited space and only two showers. She said all they need is floor space, that they would rotate through the showers, and that they’d need to be able to do a little laundry. And I said, ‘You’ve got it.’”
Engelmann plans to ride with the group from Champaign on June 22, and that evening will introduce the students to a flavor of classic Chicago foods. Jullianni’s Pizza, Great American Bagel and Pop’s Italian Beef & Sausage have committed to donating food, Dunkin Donuts will provide the group with coffee, and Jewel-Osco has donated a $25 gift card which the riders will probably use for supplies such as water, Gatorade and peanut butter, Engelmann said.
“I’ll probably throw some chicken in there, too, because I don’t know if the kids are going to like [the Chicago-style foods]; but after riding, whatever, 75 to 100 miles that day I don’t know if they’ll be that picky about what they eat.”
The riders have tents, sleeping bags and other equipment, but Engelmann is not sure exactly where they will sleep.
“They may just camp out on the floor, probably every inch of the floor,” she added.
The group will leave the following afternoon for downtown Chicago, where they will stay one night before heading to Milwaukee. From Milwaukee to Anchorage is 3,500 miles, and the Ozark riders plan to meet up with the other two groups in late July in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, then ride the last 10 days to Alaska’s most populous city.
Engelmann, an avid cyclist for the past seven years, is impressed with the students’ dedication to ride 4,500 miles through unfamiliar terrain.
“That’s a lot of miles… a lot of miles,” she said. “I’m working on being able to ride back-to-back days of 75 to 100 miles, and that’s a lot.”
Beigelbeck took this semester off from college to concentrate on her duties as ride director and an intern for Livestrong. She, like the other riders, had to apply and interview to be part of the team, and did the same to be ride director.
“I’m so excited for her, for her opportunity,” Engelmann said. “She’ll gain so much life experience, it is absolutely life-changing. I see her as somebody who, when she sets her mind to something and wants it, she goes and gets it.”
Tina Beigelbeck's rider profile and video http://www.texas4000.org/users/profile/10450
Ozark Route schedule http://www.texas4000.org/waypoints/ozarks
Rider's journal entries http://www.texas4000.org/journalentries/recent