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The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks are this September, and firefighters from the West Coast want to raise money and show their support.

For two former Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue firefighters, this means partnering with approximately 15 retired or active firefighters to ride their bicycles across the country to New York, raising money the entire time.

Former KVFR firefighters Rich Smith, who now works as a firefighter in Bellevue, and Joe Seemiller, now retired, are both avid cycling enthusiasts. This will not be their first time riding across states with firefighters. In 2019 they rode to Colorado Springs for another fundraiser.

The cyclists will start their ride in Santa Monica, California on Aug. 1, and ride to New York, arriving Sept. 9. Upon their arrival in the Big Apple, they will visit the Ground Zero site. The trip is approximately 3,000 miles.

“Our goal of arriving in New York City for 9/11 is huge for us, especially in the fire service,” Smith said. “All the guys that are on this trip were working or in the fire service at the time. Twenty years ago I can remember it like it was yesterday. Nothing like that has ever happened on the West Coast and we wanted out brothers and sisters on the East Coast to know that we care about them and that we are willing to show our respect.”

While their trip will take approximately 40 days, Seemiller said there will be four to five rest days. He said the rest days are crucial to give the muscles a chance to recover, as riding all day is extremely taxing on the human body. The cyclists will also need to be careful about the amount of calories they burn.

“We’re all going to lose weight whether we want to or not,” Seemiller said. “The danger is, yeah it’s great to burn fat, but you also don’t want to be burning muscle. That’s a thing we really need to be conscientious about, the right kind of nutrition and hydration.”

Other dangers include extreme temperatures and traffic. Seemiller said the desert regions they will be riding through in California reached temperatures of approximately 120 degrees this time last year. As for traffic, most of the riding will be done on the sides of roads, meaning all it could take is one driver on their phone to cause a serious injury to a cyclist.

The good news is that because they are all firefighters, most of them are EMTs or paramedics. They also have a support vehicle, which will drive along the route with them and is full of first aid kits, food and water and bike repair kits and parts.

The support vehicle will also limit the amount of weight each rider needs to carry to approximately 10 pounds of important items, such as tire patches and new tubes, basic first aid, and water, as well as a few other small things the riders may have on them.

The cyclists are all part of the Fire Velo Cycling Club, a national organization that promotes firefighters being involved in these types of charitable rides. Part of the ride is funded by the club, but much of it is self-funded by the riders. To save on costs, the riders will be staying as many nights as possible in fire stations across the country instead of hotels.

Smith and Seemiller were working at KVFR at the same time and did a little bit of biking together, but Smith said he was never as much a cyclist as Seemiller, whom he described as a “avid cyclist.” When the firefighters took their trip to Colorado Springs in 2019, Seemiller took things a little farther.

“We rode to Colorado Springs on a fundraiser, and when there, we went our separate ways, and I continued on to Washington D.C.,” Seemiller said. “And then this March, you know I’m getting older, so I decided to do a training ride. So I rode from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida.”

He said he sends texts and photos back to his family everyday to “let them know I’m still alive.”

What keeps Seemiller going during the long trips cross country is the knowledge that he is doing this with the support of hundreds (if not thousands) of people. This is an inspiration to people, and it raises money for a good cause.

Donations can be made through the Fire Velo website on the homepage. firevelo.com

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