Randy Rout didn't have to be convinced to finally buy a road bike.
The 48-year-old self-employed commercial contractor believed he didn't have enough time to get into the hobby.
"It was always 24-7, go, go, go with my business," he said, acknowledging a hectic schedule.
But when his wife, Julie, wanted him to spend less time working — she particularly wanted him to stop working on weekends — they thought cycling would be a good way to spend some free time together.
As a middle school English teacher and assistant principal in Howard County Public Schools — she taught at Glenwood Middle and was an assistant principal at Folly Quarter, Elkridge Landing and Clarksville middle schools — bike riding was a means of mental release from the everyday grind of her job.
She had the same intention for her husband.
"She really wanted me to slow down and start enjoying things," he said. "I made the decision and said, 'Yeah, let's get on it.'"
The Routs were going to purchase Randy's first touring bike for his birthday in September. They were in the market for an economical starter bike, likely a Cannondale, one of Julie's favorite makes.
But before the purchase was made, Julie Wurtzer Rout was diagnosed with ovarian cancer for a second time.
The first diagnosis of her stage 4 ovarian clear cell carcinoma — one of the rarest and least-known forms of ovarian cancer — was in December 2014. At first, she experienced trouble with her vision and her hand would fall asleep during long rides. At the time, she and her husband thought it was road fatigue.
One day, she and a longtime friend, Mimi Evenson, had plans to take a walk with their dogs when she called to say she wasn't feeling well and asked for a rain check. Twenty minutes later, Randy Rout called Evenson and said they were on the way to the hospital. She had suffered a heart attack.
Tests revealed the cancer's return.
While ovarian cancer accounts for about 3 percent of cancers among women, it causes more deaths than any other cancer of the reproductive system, according to the American Cancer Society.
Doctors didn't think Julie Rout would make it past Christmas. Not only did she defy the 10 percent survival rate, but she was declared to be in remission in June 2015.
Through all of that, whenever she felt good enough to get a bike ride in, she would.
As soon as Randy and Julie Rout were married in 1992, they bought mountain bikes and took advantage of the trails near their Catonsville townhouse. Julie, known for doing Iron Girl races and triathlons, got into road biking within the past five years, he said.
Before the diagnosis, she would do 50- to 100-mile rides with ease. One of her favorite trails to take with friends was the No. 9 Trolley Trail, a 1.5-mile paved trail from Catonsville to Ellicott City, which she enjoyed for its woodland setting and its accessibility to other trails.
"She was just so driven to keep going and going and going," Randy Rout said. "Her will was so strong."
Biking continued to be a way for her to clear her mind, but it became a way to bring some needed normalcy to her life, Evenson said.
After she was declared in remission, she started biking more routinely. She got her bike adjusted by Scott Westcoat, a friend for more than 15 years and owner of C'Ville Bikes/Hub.
"She never was really shaken by anything," Westcoat said. "Even when all this was going on, we all believed she was going to beat this."
So when she was diagnosed for the second time, she remained upbeat. She tried to work as frequently as possible.
Her chance of survival was low. No timeline was given.
"She beat the hell out of it the first time around," Randy Rout said. "She just always had it in her head, 'I'm going to be that 10 percent.'"
Over time, however, the cancer spread to her lungs, liver and lymph nodes. The side effects from the cancer caused her to have a stroke Sunday, March 13. She died the following ThursdayShe was 48. Her body was cremated and Randy Rout plans to spread her ashes at some of her favorite places.
Julie's memorial service was attended by more than 900 people, said Randy Rout, who received cards from more than 200 people who couldn't make it.
From providing meals and rides, to helping with their two daughters, Randy Rout has been grateful for the support from the cycling community from Catonsville and beyond.
"It was endless,' he said. "It was unbelievable the help we got from people. It was incredible."
A holiday tribute
The Fourth of July was one of Julie Rout's favorite holidays.
She and her husband made it a point to attend Catonsville's popular annual parade each year, even after they moved from Catonsville — where they lived for six years after they married — to Ellicott City.
The couple was part of a group that designed a float for Patapsco Valley State Park that won the Grand Marshal's prize one year. During the parade, if they weren't marching or on a float, they would sit side-by-side on chairs along the route. If she heard a catchy tune, she'd be the first one to jump up and start dancing curbside, he recalled.
"She was a die-hard patriot American," Randy Rout said. "She just loved everything about the Fourth and everything in Catonsville."
She also would take part in Catonsville Rails to Trails' annual bike ride to Fort McHenry.
Now in its sixth year, the ride July 4 will be dedicated this year to her memory.
Cyclist Charlie Murphy will lead the ride, which will have a pace between 10 and 12 mph, from Catonsville to Fort McHenry via the Gwynns Fall Trail. Bikers are encouraged to arrive wearing red, white and blue during the festive ride.
When Westcoat told Catonsville Rails to Trails member Maureen Sweeney Smith about Julie Rout, the nonprofit was on board. He said it was a good way to put a worthy face on the annual event.
"It's just absolutely the right thing to do," he said. "It was a community effort."
In years past, as many as 150 people have taken part in the ride, according to Sweeney Smith. The nonprofit's goal is to promote hiking and biking in the Catonsville area. Even on rainy days, a smaller group will still take part.
"The board said it was a good partnership," she said.
The hope is for CRTT to raise enough money to buy a bench, a kiosk or signto dedicate to Julie Rout along the Short Line Railroad Trail, a 2.2-mile trail in the works which will ultimately connect Maiden Choice Lane and Mellor Avenue. A 1,500-foot portion of trail which will take walkers and bikers from Asylum Lane to Locust Street is nearly completed.
"It's just an unbelievable tribute to her," Randy Rout said. "It just shows the love of the community."
Randy Rout is unsure whether he'll end up buying a road bike. Things are different now.
On the one hand, he wants to stay true to the original plan, buy the bike and ride in his wife's memory.
But now being a single father, he's weary and worried about the thought of injury.
Julie Rout's bicycle, a Cannondale that Randy says is no more than 5 pounds, remains at home in the workout room. He's unsure what he'll end up doing with it.
He has held back from asking his daughters, 21-year-old Becky and 16-year-old Grace, whether they would want to take up road biking with him, to give them some space and time to heal.
"It's a tough call," he said. "It's one of those gray areas among millions of things we've got to figure out now."
IF YOU GO
Catonsville Rails to Trails July 4 bike ride
When: 7:30 a.m.
Where: C'Ville Bikes/Hub, 821 Frederick Road, Catonsville
Cost: Free, donations accepted