Peter Bassick would have spent this summer gaining experience preparing for his future in the workplace.
Instead, the graduate has spent this summer cycling, experiencing the world in a way that has reshaped how he will live his life.
Since leaving from San Francisco on June 3, the has been cycling with his national fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, in riding across the country to raise money for people with disabilities. Push America was formed by members of the fraternity in 1977 for that sole purpose, and this year the goal is to raise $325,000.
Bassick knew cycling 75 to 85 miles a day, for seven straight days before a day off, would push him physically. But the impact went deeper to where his vocation and his life crossed paths for good.
“This honestly makes you rethink entirely what you want to do,” Bassick said Wednesday, sitting in his parents’ Lake Forest living room during a break from the trip. The group will spend Thursday and Friday in Chicago participating in activities with disabled people, then continue on until ending the trip some 4,000 miles total in early August in Washington, D.C.
“This trip makes you want to do this the rest of your life – helping people with disabilities,” Bassick continued. “It really is a very rewarding and fun area to work in.”
Bassick, a senior at Purdue, was set to work in defense aeronautics, but now his interests have been steered toward biomechanical engineering, working with artificial limbs or any device that would help someone with a disability to be more active.
“It’s amazing what these power wheelchairs can do,” Bassick said. “When you look at that, the possibilities are endless with things you could design to help a paraplegic walk, for example. There is technology now for that to happen.”
Bassick plans to take the fall semester off from classes and intern with Johnson Controls in Indianapolis. He knew this summer might be his last chance to participate in the Push America ride. Frat members hear from those who have gone before them, what the experience is like and creating the desire to be part of it.
“The way they talk about it, it makes you want to do it,” Bassick said. “It’s this life-changing experience that if you haven’t done it, you can’t describe it until you do it.”
Bassick, who played football, wrestling and club rugby while at LFHS, extended his pursuits to triathlons when he enrolled at Purdue, even competing in a couple of half-Ironmans. When he decided to join the Push America ride, they recommended riding 1,000 miles more for gaining a comfort level on the bicycle versus the physical benefit.
“Eve n then, nothing can prepare you to ride 75-85 miles a day, every day for seven straight days, and then getting a day off,” Bassick said. “For those first two to three weeks, you are really sore.”
Now, though, he doesn’t even think about the daily mileage. The focus becomes the people they meet at each stop, which sometimes can turn into a bicycle safety demonstration to engaging in games with disabled kids.
“Especially at this point of the trip, most of the guys don’t even care about the ride anymore,” Bassick said. “It’s not about the ride every day. It’s really about the people, the struggles they go through every day and helping break down the stereotypes that a lot to people have about what people with disabilities can or can’t do.”
The Push America ride is broken into three routes, and by the time they reach Washington, D.C., more than 100 cyclists and crew members who ride in vans to assist during each daily trek will have been involved.
They reached the 3,000-mile point coming into the Chicago area. They only missed one day of cycling due to lightning in Iowa. The dry conditions have meant very little rain delays, but the heat has been present almost the entire route.
“A lot of stretching drink a lot of water and eat a lot of food,” Bassick said of coping with the physical demands. “At this point in the ride, we’re all in good shape. The rides aren’t really hard anymore. I never thought I would think of a 50-mile ride would be like a day off.”