Not an ordinary summer

By Dick Mason, The Observer August 19, 2013 11:25 am

Kendall Smith, right, shown here with his grandparents Al and Betty Blankenship, recently completed a 3,300-mile bike ride across the United States. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
Kendall Smith, right, shown here with his grandparents Al and Betty Blankenship, recently completed a 3,300-mile bike ride across the United States. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
 

Imbler senior caps vacation with 3,300-mile ride across America 

Some high school students have spent their summer laying in the sun, hiking, camping and swimming.

Not Imbler High School student Kendall Smith. The word summer has not been synonymous with leisure this year. Smith has spent his summer honoring his late mother, Jeanie Crawford, with a heartfelt salute, one which gave her 3,300 reasons to smile from above. 

Smith recently completed a 3,300-mile bike trek across the United States. He did so with a Big Ride Across America team to raise money for the American Lung Association in memory of his mom, who died of cancer in 2009.

“I thought of her every day,” said Smith, who will be a senior at IHS this fall.

Smith and his team started the ride June 17, pedaling from Seattle to Washington, D.C. in 48 days, including eight layover days. The cyclists averaged 83 miles a day.

“It was awesome. I not only got to see America, I got to feel it,” said Smith, whose team reached Washington, D.C., on Aug. 3.

What was most challenging portion of the ride? It came in the first week of the ride when the cyclists pedaled from Odessa, Wash., to Spokane, Wash., in 35-degree weather. 

Smith said that riding for an extensive time in such cold conditions took its toll, especially on his hands. He was braced for scorching temperatures but not a big chill. 

“I did not expect it,” Smith said.

Smith, 17, was the youngest rider on the team by four years. The oldest was 66.

Smith’s youthfulness did not get the best of him. Smith and Tim Landwerlen, a 31-year-old Marine from California, were the first two to finish each leg of the ride. Smith said that he and Landwerlen became fast friends during their ride.

Smith was no stranger to bicycling when he started his journey, for he has been a successful mountain bike racer for years. The conditioning Smith gained from mountain bike racing served him well.

“The ride was not as difficult as I expected it to be,” Smith said.

One reason, in addition to conditioning, is that he traveled on a road bike during his journey, one he found easier to pedal than his mountain bike because it was much lighter. 

Smith was the only rider on his 14-member team who never got a flat tire, while some of the other riders dealt with several flats. Smith’s grandparents, Al and Betty Blankenship, credit this to good fortune. 

“He was dodging bullets the whole way,” Smith’s grandfather said.

The Blankenships drove with Smith’s party through the first half of the journey and later met their grandson in Washington, D.C. 

The Big Ride Team was provided with meals and luggage transportation throughout their journey. Smith emerged from the trip 15 pounds heavier than when he left.

“I think (his weight gain) was all muscle because he is skinnier now,” Betty Blankenship said.