Survivor stories part of 3,100-mile journey

Warlick, Caldwell return from motorcycle ride

Tough to top the scenery that graced the cross-country motorcycle trip of Holly Warlick and Nikki Caldwell.

The Tennessee women's basketball assistant coaches saw Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon - to name a few sights.

"That's the best way to see God's country - on a motorcycle,'' Caldwell said at a welcome-home rally Wednesday night at Market Square. "You're in the thick of things. All the senses are heightened."

Equally compelling were the stories that enriched the journey. Warlick and Caldwell had much to think about during the 3,100-mile trek as well as plenty to see.

The purpose of the trip was to raise awareness about breast cancer. Warlick's grandmother died from the illness. Caldwell has a friend in Nashville who is in remission. There were rallies at cities along their route. Warlick said approximately $21,000 was raised, which will go toward research for a cure.

"What was touching to me was how many survivors came out to meet us,'' Warlick said. "They came out to say thanks. To have them show up. People you don't know. It was amazing. Nikki and I talked about it on a daily basis."

The survivor stories became a driving force, right along with the 1,900 gallons of gas burned and 300 liters of Gatorade consumed.

"If I get hot, I can pull off and get in the shade,'' Warlick said. "They have to keep fighting."

Caldwell embraced a theme along the way.

"What I've been telling people is mammogram, mammogram, mammogram,'' she said. "Don't wait. If you feel something going on with your body. Go get it checked."

There were cancer survivors at Wednesday's rally. Warlick and Caldwell received a police escort and were accompanied by a convoy of motorcyclists.

The City of Knoxville proclaimed the day to be "Cruisin' for a Cure Day" while Knox County's proclamation was "Volunteers Cruisin' for a Cause" day.

UT women's coach Pat Summitt spoke at the rally, as did Lady Vols athletic director Joan Cronan.

The coaches' trip and its purpose had a special meaning for Cronan. Her husband, Tom, died last year after battling cancer. During his fight, Tom took a motorcycle trip across the country and visited wellness communities. Cronan said Warlick was riding the same motorcycle Tom had used.

"I think if we're going to beat cancer we need awareness,'' Cronan said. "Tom would've been so proud."

Warlick and Caldwell thanked their support crew and their sponsors. They probably didn't give enough credit, though, to the seats that were donated for their ride.

"My butt did not get tired,'' Warlick said. "It really didn't."

Dan Fleser covers women's basketball. He can be reached at 865-342-6288.

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Comments » 3

vol4jesus writes:

Class act Ladies all the way!! Thanks for the effort to encourage survivors and those in the midst! Go Lady Vols!!!

goladyvols07#222306 writes:

Holly and Nikki, Thanks so much for all that you do but especially for what you have just accomplished. I am proud to be a Lady Vols fan. Both of you are "good folk". Anyway, here is wishing you both the very best. One word that best describes this entire coaching staff is "CLASS". Go Lady Vols!!!

betz writes:

Saw them in Dallas - they were so upbeat and great representative of UT even after a long ride in the rain.

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