Paying tribute

By Dick Mason, The Observer February 01, 2013 09:54 am

Kendall Smith of Imbler is preparing for a cross-country biking trip this summer.
Kendall Smith of Imbler is preparing for a cross-country biking trip this summer.

by DICK MASON / The Observer 

Imbler junior tackles cross-country bike ride to honor the memory of his deceased mother

Jeanie Crawford, a Grande Ronde Valley resident who died of cancer in 2009, was a woman of compassion and a quick wit who could make anyone smile. 

This summer Crawford’s son, Kendall Smith, will be giving his mother more than 3,000 reasons to smile with pride from above.

The Imbler High School junior will ride a bicycle 3,300 miles across the United States to honor his mother. Smith will cycle from Seattle to Washington, D.C., with a Big Ride Across America team to raise money for the American Lung Association in memory of his mom.

Smith said his mother was a wonderful person who would do anything for her family. Like her son, she loved outdoor activities. Horseback riding was among her favorites. 

Smith also will be making the trip for his senior project. All IHS students must complete a senior project before they can graduate. Smith will write a detailed report about his coast-to-coast journey and give an oral report on it to meet senior project requirements.

The Big Ride Across America team Smith will be a part of will leave Seattle on June 17 and arrive in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 3. It will average 83 miles each day it travels. Off days will be rare on the journey.

“There will be 40 days of riding and eight days of rest,” Smith said.

The IHS student is no stranger to cycling, for he is a successful mountain bike racer, one adept at hitting speeds on rugged courses. 

Smith may not be barrelling down the sides of any mountains on this ride, however, the long-distance ride will pose a challenge like no other he has faced. Smith has never made a bike tour of any kind. 

“I am nervous about the long days,” he said.

Kim Metlen of Imbler, an experienced cyclist who will be helping Smith train for the ride, said he will have little trouble.

“He just needs to take his time and pace himself,’’ said Metlen, noting that as a mountain bike racer this is something Smith is not used to doing.

Smith is looking forward to riding a traditional  lightweight road bike with narrow tires on the trip. He has never ridden a road bike extensively before.

The bicycle he rides in mountain biking competition and training is heavy and has wide tires with traction tread. Such bikes are ideal for riding dirt trails but not on flat roads, which is one of the reasons Smith is eagerly anticipating riding a road bike on flat pavement.

“The skinnier tires will provide less friction,’’ Smith said.

As a mountain bike rider, Smith periodically finds himself airborne while reaching high speeds during races. He does not anticipate there will be any gravity defying moments on his coast-to-coast ride.

“I will miss being in the air and going fast,’’ Smith said.

His tour team will be sleeping outdoors in tents most nights, but will occasionally stay in college residence halls.

Smith, who has never been east of western Montana, believes he will be a different person following the cross-country trip.

“It will definitely change me,” he said. “It will show me that I can do anything if I put my mind to it.”