LUMBERTON — Biking the 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway left Maria Parker exhilarated and with a check for $14,000 to add to her fight against brain cancer.
Parker has been on longer treks since 2013 to raise money to fight the disease that claimed the life of her sister in 2015, but none were more beautiful than the inaugural Ride the Blue Ridge Parkway in late May.
“Riding in nature is very soothing, especially when you’re not racing,” Parker said Friday, just days after returning to Lumberton after the nine-day ride. A hardy group of six made the trip.
Parker has raced 3,000 miles in the Race Across America twice, so a leisurely ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains might seem like a stroll in the park. Think again.
“There is no flat to the Parkway,” Parker said. “You’re either going three miles an hour uphill or 30 miles an hour screaming downhill.”
Biking the Blue Ridge Parkway was very safe because sightseers go slow, and motorcycle riders are very friendly and courteous, Parker said.
“We had no problems,” she said. “In one place, there were trees down stopping traffic, but they let us through. We had 60 miles of the road all to ourselves.”
As a fundraiser, Ride the Blue Ridge Parkway is likely to become an annual spring event, paired with the Crossing the Canyon in the fall, which is a hike through the Grand Canyon.
“I can’t wait ‘til next year,” Parker said. “It all worked well, including the lodging right on the Parkway and the food, which was great.
“We were trying to figure out if this could be an annual fundraiser, and the answer is yes.”
Riding with Maria were a couple from Washington, N.C.; a Texan, Parker’s husband, Jim; and daughter, Lucia, who lives in Boston.
Parker has hand-picked Washington, D.C.-based Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure as the target for her philanthropy. It is a venture capital fund that contributes to small and creative research programs.
“We meet with them once a year, and we select where our funds go,” Parker said. “We’re giving to a research group that cancer victims can send their cancer cells to. They will grow them in the lab and then work on a personalized cure.
“It’s very exciting research.”
To learn more about the Maria Parker’s fundraising program, go to 3000milestoacure.com. She began the venture after her sister Jenny died with brain cancer.