Warlick, Caldwell on the road again

Holly Warlick and Nikki Caldwell have picked up an additional former Lady Vol basketball player for their annual motorcycle ride to raise awareness of breast cancer. Jody Adams, the head coach of Wichita State, has joined "Champions for a Cause" for this month's South Dakota-to-Nevada trek.

The trio and its support staff, which includes longtime Tennessee fan Traci Smith and her recreational vehicle to escort the bikers, arrived Saturday evening in Casper, Wyoming.

The group started Thursday at the motorcycle mecca of Sturgis, S.D. – they shipped their bikes to that location – and visited the sites in South Dakota and Wyoming, including the Devils Tower, a national monument and the first so designated in the United States.

"I remember seeing it on ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,' but it was amazing how massive it was," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "We went through Deadwood (the end of the trail for Wild Bill Hickok). We went through the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Custer National Park. It was really cool.

"My biggest thing going through the park was seeing buffalo, and they were massive."

The motorcycle crew has encountered all kinds of weather during its annual treks from scorching temperatures in the desert to monsoons through the South to frigid weather in the Northeast.

"It's been nice," Warlick said Saturday in a phone interview with Inside Tennessee. "It hasn't been as cold as we thought. We've had a really good ride. We came over through South Dakota and Wyoming, and it was wide open. It was wide open spaces."

They will depart Sunday morning for the state of Utah, including the stunningly picturesque Flaming Gorge with a side trip to engage in fly-fishing.

Warlick and former Lady Vol player and assistant coach Nikki Caldwell started Champions for a Cause to raise awareness about breast cancer and also funding for research and support of those fighting the disease.

The nonprofit organization began when both were on the sidelines for Tennessee and has continued after Caldwell relocated to head coaching jobs at UCLA and now LSU.

"She is here and she bought a purple bike," Warlick said. "The three of us (Warlick, Caldwell and Adams, a Lady Vol from 1989 to 1993 who overlapped with Caldwell as a player) are having a good time. We're catching up. They are both great friends."

Caldwell is posting on Twitter about the ride, as is Warlick.

The Champions group also is available online at Facebook and Twitter.

The 2011 ride ends in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Tuesday, and a trip to a local hospital is in the works, along with a side ride to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

The Las Vegas destination also coincides with the training camp for the USA women's basketball national team, so the coaches plan to have dinner while in town with three former Lady Vols expected to be at camp – Tamika Catchings, Kara Lawson and Candace Parker.

"That will be fun," Warlick said.

The group has enjoyed support throughout the ride with car honks and interaction at the various stops with people stopping to talk about the cause.

"Everybody gives us a thumb's up," Warlick said. "That means we're doing something right."

Donations may be made online at Champions for a Cause.

"We're all about seeing people and people ask us about what we're doing," Warlick said. "We always have great response."

Another benefit of the ride is the chance to see the beautiful countryside of the United States.

"Oh my God, it's absolutely gorgeous," Warlick said. "I don't know if I could live out here in the winter but right now it's windy and a little cool. It's beautiful."

The annual ride has become a signature event for Warlick and Caldwell and the reaction underscores their decision to commit to the cause.

"Absolutely," Warlick said. "People all over the country go, ‘When are you going on your bike ride?' My name is associated with motorcycles and raising money for breast cancer and that's what it's all about.

"I am proud of it, and I am proud of what we have done, and we want to continue to do it. We are passionate about it."

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