Tag Archives: Coast2Coast for Cancer

Cross-country rider reaches Iowa

A year ago Tracy Delp was at the end of her rope, or so it seemed. The 47-year-old Port Orchard woman had pledged to ride horseback across the country to raise awareness and funding for cancer, which had claimed her mother and others she loved, including animals. She and her riding partner Dan Shanafelt set out from the Pacific Coast on their Coast2Coast for Cancer ride on Mother’s Day 2011, but somewhere near the border between Washington and Idaho, Dan had a change of heart and turned back.

The last time I wrote about Delp, she had trailered her team of horses (and one mule) back to Washington to regroup, blindly determined not to abandon her goal.

Today, lo and behold, there comes in a Google alert news that Delp made it to Iowa, more than halfway to her destination: Delaware’s shoreline. Now riding with a trimmed down team of one woman, one horse and a plucky dog named Ursa, Delp has improvised daily and leaned heavily on the kindness of strangers to leapfrog team and trailer across the Western and Central United States.

“I’ve done it every which way to Sunday,” she said. “I’ve handed my keys to complete strangers.”

The Rocky Mountains were her first big challenge. Delp set out late last fall (almost winter really), hurrying from the point she left off to make the crossing.

“I was told there is no way. People told me I was crazy,” she said.

It wouldn’t have been the first time.

Delp and company took 10 days to get through the mountains. “The next day, it snowed like a banshee,” she said.

Delp returned home shortly before Thanksgiving to wait out the winter and resumed her journey again in mid-April. Wouldn’t you know she picked a summer of record-setting heat and drought?

Her MO has been to start near dawn and knock off around noon. Innovation, animal instinct and sheer luck have all been required to keep the team from overheating. Ursa, it turns out can find water where there appears to be none.

“You play the beat-the-heat game. Some days you win. Some days you lose,” she said.

The heat bred crazy lightning and thunderstorms.

Delp has gotten so used to being outdoors that she almost feels claustrophobic inside a building. She’s gained a fine appreciation for the sheer size of this country and just how much of it is empty, or rather open landscape.

“There’s a whole lot of nowhere,” Delp said. “My idea of nowhere is a lot different than it used to be.”

Obstacles large and small present themselves daily, not if but when. Most recently the horse, Sierra, stepped on her cell phone. It still worked, but then she got caught in a rainstorm. Water leaked through the cracks and killed the faithful device, which had to be replaced.

Somehow, money for supplies, gas to the next town, a place to stay fall into Delp’s lap just when she needs them. Some of the funding for the trip comes from her website, which allows donors to choose whether they want to give to partner organizations, one that raises money for animals with cancer, one for people. Another option is to sponsor supplies and other costs of the ride.

Last August, Delp was in the running for a $25,000 Pepsi Refresh grant. The corporate take on crowd funding allowed supporters of micro-causes to vote, advancing programs and projects like Delp’s ride. Projects in various categories earned grants awarded monthly to those with the most votes. Coast2Coast for Cancer made it to 31st place, but Delp did not win a prize.

Often, people along the route will simply step up to fill a need. Like the woman who offered to keep the horse as Delp hauled back to Washington last week on an emergency trip to tend to one of her dogs being cared for at home, that “ironically,” as Delp says, came down with cancer.

Delp expected to have to put the dog down, but 14-year-old Duke rallied at her arrival. “I’m checking in with him, and he’s not ready,” said Delp, who makes a living as an “animal interpreter.”

On Thursday, I spoke to Delp, who was driving her truck, decorated with sponsor decals, through Colorado on her way back to Iowa. Duke was happily gazing at the scenery go by. That’s right; Delp will now bring her aging dog, who is ailing with cancer along on the journey.

She hasn’t quite figured out what she will do with Duke while she rides, but Delp is undaunted. She’s pondering how to fix up a wagon in which he can ride comfortably. Alternately, she’ll find a daily dog sitter. One way or another, she and her animals will roll with whatever the road brings their way.

“Cancer is not something you can ever plan for,” she said. “Now, here we are. This is an adventure.”

Update on Friday: Duke died on Thursday night, just a few hours after my interview with Delp. And the journey continues.

Cross-country rider has a hitch in her get-along

Tracy Delp, the 46-year-old Port Orchard woman riding across the country to raise awareness and funding for cancer, is at a temporary standstill.

Delp and her riding partner Dan Shanafelt, 23, set out from the Pacific Coast with a team of horses (and one mule) on Mother’s Day, appropriate since Delp lost her mom to cancer. The team traveled on highways, back roads and trails, through small towns, mountains, forests and desert land.

They found people who opened their doors to them, fed them and pointed them down the trail. Much of it was glorious. Much of it — especially as they traveled through the desert of Eastern Washington — was pure hell.

One day they expected to find water, but had none. How hot was it? Ursa, Delp’s dog along for the journey, had to wear boots to keep from burning her feet. One of the horses was bitten by a snake, thankfully not a rattler.

After that they carried water, but the stress took a toll on everyone, Delp said.

Shanfelt and Delp made it to the Idaho border in mid-July. There they parted ways.

In her blog and in a telephone interview, Delp said simply, “Dan has decided that he will no longer be riding across the country.”

Shanfelt did not call me back to explain his side of the story.

“This decision has required that I rethink the initial route, as at this point I will be the only human to continue coast 2 coast,” Delp wrote in her blog.

Delp has cut about 800 miles off her route, and she will avoid wilderness areas.

“I can be a whole lot of dumb, but I’m not stupid,” she said. “Going through the wilderness by yourself is not a good idea.”

One other small detail to be worked out: Who will drive the support trailer along the way. Family and friends were available early in the route. Later, Dan drove along stretches where Delp’s unsinkable faith didn’t provide angels along the way.

Delp, now back at home, is working furiously on this and other logistical details. When she gets it together, she’ll head out, picking up where she left off.

It seems everyone is doing some kind of marathon these days. I wonder why you never hear about the people who don’t finish the race.

I asked Delp what about just saying, “I got this far and called it good?”

Aside from consideration of everyone who’s donated money, goods or services to make the trip possible, Delp said, she doesn’t feel pressured to continue. But she also feels no pressure to quit.

“For me, I set my sights on Delaware. I don’t have a reason to stop,” Delp said. “Yeah, there were things that really sucked, but overall, this has been amazing.”

Delp recently got a bit of good news. Her project is in the running for a Pepsi Refresh grant. The company is awarding money to people whose ideas for improving their communities receive the most votes on the Pepsi Refresh website. Currently ranked 52nd in this round of voting, she stands to earn $25,000 if online voters help her make the cut.

This round of voting in the Pepsi Refresh contest ends Aug. 23.

Delp’s journey also has me thinking about how, in this very virtual world, we all seem to be craving adventure. Maybe that explains the popularity of shows like “Deadliest Catch” and “Man vs Wild.”

Maybe that explains why everyone these days has a bucket list that includes far more than sitting on the back porch rocking away the sunset years.

What’s on my list? I’d like to be one of the people who sets off fireworks at a professional show. I’d like to learn the hula and how to play piano. I’d like to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef. And that’s just for starters.

So what’s on your list?

Coast2Coast for Cancer: Urban cowboys

The Kitsap Sun’s story on Tracy Delp and Dan Shanafelt, who are riding across the country to raise awareness of cancer, received considerable interest from other publications, including the Tacoma News Tribune, Seattle Times, Seattle Post Intelligencer and others who spread to word of the pair’s 5,000 mile journey.

We also heard from Beverly Casey of Kingston, whose cousin Larry Stevens rode (on horseback) almost the same route in the 1980s. Casey has lost track of Larry, who is said to have met a woman along the trail and married her. But Casey still had a clipping from the Cowlitz County Advocate, dated May 14, 1986 which documents one leg of his journey. (see below, keep scrolling, the whole article is there)

As of Tuesday evening, they had made it to Yelm, according to their blog.

After departing from Ocean Shores on Mother’s Day (May 8), they made their way to Hoquiam, where on May 9 they received a police escort across one of the city’s main bridges. Earler this week, I spoke to Det. Sgt. Shane Krohn, who said the Hoquiam Police Department is used to giving escorts to log trucks escorts, but “to my knowledge, we have not done the horse thing before. It was definitely interesting.”

The Daily World was kind enough to share the photo with us. I call it “Urban Cowboys.”

JACOB JONES | THE DAILY WORLD Rider Tracy Delp, on Andy, and Dan Shanafelt, atop Rosie, trot across the Riverside Avenue Bridge in Hoquiam on Monday morning shortly after starting their Coast 2 Coast for Cancer ride in Ocean City to raise awareness and money to fight the disease, which effects both people and animals. Hoquiam police closed the bridge during their crossing. The plan to travel about 5,000 on their journey to the Atlantic Ocean, sharing their message along the way. For more information or to provide support visit: www.coast2coastforcancer.webs.com.

The team circled back to Port Orchard via trailer late last week to take care of some last minute logistical details before hitting the trail again on May 15.

Happy trails guys.

Here’s the clipping from Beverly
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Coast2Coast for Cancer: Meet the equine team who’ll make the journey

On Friday, Tracy Delp’s five horses and one mule meandered the pasture, going about their business as usual, eating, maintaining pecking order within the herd, pooping, and enjoying some last-minute primping and hoof care. They seemed unaware that Sunday, Mother’s Day, they were to embark on a 5,000-mile trek across the United States, to help raise awareness of cancer (see today’s story in the Kitsap Sun).

But Delp and Dan Shanafelt, who will accompany her on the road, say the animals knew something big was afoot. Delp, who owns a business as an animal interpreter, says she can communicate on a deep level with horses, dogs, cats and other species. From animals, she gets mental images, emotions and even phrases in her mind. So while members of the team may not have gotten every detail, the horses and Rosie the mule were all in on the excitement of starting the journey, Delp and Shanafelt said.

They are eager for adventure and all of them — chosen for this reason — enjoy a day of work.

The horses will walk 20 to 25 miles a day, rotating in and out, three at a time. The resting horses will be trailered forward by a team of family and friends, who also will re-supply the group along the way. Like any athletic team, the horses each bring special talents and attitudes to the game.

See a gallery and learn more about the horses (and Rosie the mule) by clicking here.

Learn about the team’s long ride and follow their progress on the Coast2Coast for Cancer blog.