Aurora -- Olivia Peters, a 2000 Aurora High School graduate, said she always wanted to see America, but driving cross country didn't appeal to her. "It felt too removed," she said.
So Peters plans to ride her bicycle 3,300 miles from Seattle to Washington, D.C., this summer to raise money for the American Lung Association, which is organizing the journey. The ride, slated to begin June 17 and end in August, will include between 20 and 40 riders ranging in age from 18 to 70.
Peters, a special education teacher in Boston, said biking across America has been on her "bucket list" for several years, "but I didn't have a concrete plan for how I was going to make it happen."
Now, she does.
"When I learned about the Big Ride Across America, I jumped at the chance to both experience the ride and to raise funds for a great cause," she said. "I like the idea of seeing the country from the ground level, taking my time to get to places and stopping at local diners for lunch.
"The route is set and is nearly entirely on back roads and county routes," Peters said. "There also may be some opportunities for us to ride on bike-only trails during some portions."
Peters said the riders will have a support vehicle with them that will help transport some gear and assist in case of emergencies, serious injuries or bike issues.
ACCORDING to the American Lung Association, the riders are expected to average about 83 miles a day, and evenings will mainly be spent camping.
The riders will cross the two major mountain ranges of America -- the Rockies and Appalachians -- as well as the rolling foothills of Wyoming and the great plains of South Dakota.
"The toughest part is going to be the beginning as we test our fitness in the Rocky Mountains," she said.
After starting in Seattle, the bike trek will wind through Spokane, Wash.; Billings, Mont.; Rapid City, S.D.; and Madison, Wis. When the bikers reach Ohio, they will travel through Sandusky and Burton, then head to Gettysburg, Pa., before reaching Washington, D.C.
During the journey, Peters said she plans to visit her hometown.
As an Aurora High School senior in 2000, she was a member of the girls' state champion 4x100-meter relay team and placed fifth in the high jump at the state meet. As a junior in 1999, she finished ninth in the long jump and sixth in the high jump at the state meet.
In her junior year at AHS, she split time between goalkeeper and forward on the first girls' varsity soccer team.
Peters graduated from Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., with a major in psychology. She ran track and field in the Big East Conference and competed in the heptathlon, which is a combination of seven events.
Today, Peters, 30, lives in Cambridge, Mass., and teaches in Boston schools at the middle grades level, where she is a special education teacher working with children with emotional and behavioral disabilities.
HER PARENTS, Margie Repka-Peters and Jim Peters, moved to Doylestown, Pa., in 2000.
Peters said while she enjoys a variety of sports and fitness activities, she has been biking only for two or three years.
"I actually commute to work every day by bicycle -- even in the winter in Boston," she said. "I ride 1.5 miles to work and 1.5 miles back. I go on an occasional weekend ride, but I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a 'cyclist.' I've done a few charity century rides, which include 100-mile days, but that is the most experience I have with distance biking."
Peters said her current training includes running and swimming, and she plans to compete in her first triathlon in the spring as she prepares for the bike journey.
"I'm most nervous about the first week of the bicycle trip," she said. "Since I've never ridden more than one long day at a time, I imagine that stringing together four 70-plus mile rides back-to-back is going to be both a mental and physical challenge.
"Also, the Rocky Mountains are pretty nerve-wracking, but I'm mostly confident that I can tackle this challenge," she said. "The key will be to stay dedicated to my training in the spring, and I'm sure that my fellow riders and I will support each other to success."
She said she is looking forward to seeing "the views on the top of the long, tough hills."
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