Fox Chapel teen biking across country for Parkinson’s awareness
Fox Chapel teen Kathryn Rockwell bikes every day, often training on Lower Valley roads, so she will be ready to pedal across America coast to coast this summer.
Her trip kicked off June 27 and is dedicated to raising funds for Parkinson’s research.
Rockwell’s passion for cycling will manifest in a 37-day trek — and an average of 85 miles each day.
Rockwell’s drive, in part, stems from not being able to complete the journey in 2018.
The now 18-year-old had pedaled close to the Arizona border, almost to her goal of the California coast, when she passed out while riding.
Stepping off the plane in Pittsburgh, the first thing she wanted to do was return and finish the ride.
She couldn’t complete it just then, but she says she is ready now.
“I won’t feel like I accomplished anything if I don’t finish (this year),” she said.
Starting again is an accomplishment in itself.
Her mother, Anne, said seeking this goal has made her daughter strong.
“The trip is so much mental. You have to get past that barrier,” she said.
Helping Parkinson’s research is part of Rockwell’s strength. Her paternal grandfather, Samuel Forbes Rockwell III, died from injuries suffered in a Parkinson’s-related fall.
She has dedicated months to training, averaging about 15 miles a day riding a bike. She uses a Peloton indoor bike when necessary but prefers the outdoors.
Short treks on Fox Chapel-area roads provide uphill workouts that are doubly hard with a 20-pound packed pannier on her back.
Longer rides, some up to 30 miles a day, are accomplished on local bike trails.
She and her father, Sam Rockwell, use the trails between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., for longer jaunts.
A typical training day begins early, at about 4:30 a.m. The bikers get up and pack, eating on the run. They stop about every hour and a half. Rockwell tries to drink about 6 liters of water, the equivalent of three big soda bottles.
She uses a “camel” — a back-mounted carrier with a straw — so she can ride and sip.
Each day, the group stops to pick up fresh food so they don’t have to carry it with them.
The young woman is taking special care to keep her temperature even, eat well and hydrate.
Rockwell’s group will stay in youth hostels, churches and even some schools along the cross-country trip.
The ride begins in Charleston, S.C., and finishes in San Diego on Aug. 8.
She said she will miss her family, parents and younger brother, Sam.
Rockwell’s next big step will be her senior year at Winchester Thurston. And maybe, Rockwell said, sometime in the future, she will cycle through Europe.