Cowboys stop in Tri-Cities during quest to stop Crohn's disease

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldAugust 19, 2013 

cowboys cowboy crohn's crohns disease ride horse

Cousins Jack Chambers, left, of Bellingham, and Nick Roach of Pasco are halfway through a 1,300-mile journey on horseback from Gardiner, Mont. to Bellingham to raise money for a cure for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. They're seen here riding on Taylor Flats Road north of Pasco on Sunday. To follow their journey, visit

KAI-HUEI YAU — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Nick Roach, 23, and his cousin Jack Chambers, 24, have spent the past month talking about all sorts of things as they mosey across Montana, Idaho and Washington on horseback.

They're on a quest, called "Cowboys vs. Crohn's," to raise money to combat Crohn's disease, an inflammatory ailment that affects the intestines.

That quest is taking them 1,300 miles from Montana to Bellingham, with a mule called Festus in tow.

They hope to reach the end of their trek by Oct. 10.

They stopped in the Tri-Cities to visit family this week, and will continue their journey next week, heading to Portland and then north.

Seven members of the Roach and Chambers families suffer from Crohn's, including Chambers, who was diagnosed at age 11.

"Mine has been in remission for a while now, which made this trip much more enjoyable," Chambers joked.

Their ride started in Gardiner, Mont., near Hell's A-Roarin' Outfitters ranch, where Roach and Chambers spent five summers working for Warren and Susan Johnson.

They say that experience prepared them well for the long ride.

"Warren is the toughest SOB we ever met," Roach said. "But, boy, did we learn a lot from him. We even trained (U.S.) Marines to pack mules when we worked for Warren because those Marines had to take mules into the mountains of Afghanistan where Jeeps couldn't go."

Though the cousins can handle horses and mules, they don't consider themselves real cowboys.

"We've never worked with cattle, and that's what real cowboys do," Chambers said.

Roach, the son of Jerry and Maria Roach of Pasco, is a 2008 graduate of Tri-Cities Prep High School. Chambers grew up in Bellingham, but spent a lot of time visiting his cousin.

"I think they're both intrepid young men for taking this journey, to go out and do something with their life," Jerry Roach said.

His wife agreed, though she does worry a little more as the guys ride closer to large cities and crowded roads.

"I know they'll be fine. We taught our kids to protect themselves and make good choices," Maria Roach said. "Their cause is a good one because Crohn's is an insidious disease that is affecting a greater number of people today."

To avoid cars, Chambers and Roach keep to side roads and open range when they can. They did have a little trouble with Festus the mule when they rode through Missoula.

He got spooked by all the traffic and took off across a busy street, dragging Roach's mount with him because the mule's reins were tied around his saddle horn. The mule was eventually calmed, and they rode on through town.

Riding 1,300 miles also results in a lot of time to talk.

"When you embark on a journey like this you better make sure you like the person you're with," Chambers said.

So far, the ride has raised about $34,000 for Crohn's research. They figure they'll spend a total of about $13,000 of that money for their horses -- shoeing, feeding, boarding -- and their own food during the three-month trek.

"We're excited to be doing this because it's also an opportunity to meet people, experience the Northwest on horseback, and even play some music on my guitar along the way," Roach said.

Riding for their cause has provided an adventure they'll not soon forget, Roach said.

"The hospitality we've received all along the way from ranchers has been outstanding," he said. "There were so many cool encounters with people who were eager to give us some water for our horses and mule, and even a bed for the night."

To follow their progress or to donate, go to their website at

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