July 20 (UPI) -- A physician assistant who spent eight weeks on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis in New York City decided to cap off her tenure with a 3,500-mile bike ride from Oregon to New York.
Theresa Mellas, who has worked as a traveling physician assistant for 10 years, said she accepted a 25-day contract to work 12-hour shifts every day at the ICU at a hospital in the North Central Bronx in March, the start of the COVID-19 crisis, and at the end of that time she accepted a second 25-day contract.
Mellas said she decided to celebrate the end of her second contract with a coast-to-coast bike ride.
"I needed my own mental decompression and I really impetuously just bought a ticket, a one-way ticket to Portland, Oregon," Mellas told WNBC-TV. "I didn't even have a bike. I bought this bike off of Craigslist the day I landed and I started riding East the very next day."
Mellas said she made note of some friends she wanted to visit along the way, but she planned her route on the fly.
Mellas said she only took a total 7 days off from riding during her 40-day trip across the country, which she managed by riding 100-130 miles each day.
She said most of the people who ended up helping her along her journey were complete strangers.
"I can't emphasize that the people that I met, complete strangers, they offered me food, they offered me showers, you needed a place to stay. I'd knock on people's doors 'can I sleep next to your cornfield?' I met so many incredible people. People came together, people are rallying. They're longing for a connection," she said.