The past three months have been a nonstop adventure of chaos, friendship, and new experiences. As many of you already know, I spent all of June and July biking across the country with Bike the US for MS in honor of my sister, to raise awareness of and funds for Multiple Sclerosis research.
Over the course of 62 days, the team biked over 3,785 miles from Yorktown, VA to San Francisco, CA.
Let’s talk about the team real quick: We had teachers and students. Retirees and those who quit their jobs and sought out adventure. Elite level athletes and those who had barely ridden a bicycle in their lives. Professionals and those of us still trying to figure out what we are doing with out lives. We even had a Brit and a Canadian who joined us crazy Americans.
Basically, we were a ragtag group of chaos incarnate. And despite all our differences, we became a family through our trials and struggles along the road.
And a struggle it was!
I’ll be completely honest: Before this journey started, the longest I had ever ridden on my bike was two, back to back days of 70ish miles. So our day two mileage of 82 miles kicked my butt!
But, on all my training rides, I didn’t take any breaks. And when we had a rest stop every 20 miles or so, it made the ride a lot more manageable.
And soon, we found ourselves charging up the Appalachian Mountains onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, and flying down mountain back roads. We had a couple falls and one major injury as we made our way out of Virginia, but we continued on into the narrow roads and insanity that was Kentucky traffic, where we had some close calls with impatient drivers and rogue dogs that gave chase.
And then we came upon the storms and the rain. And after a quick, three-hour detour around the flooded Mississippi River, we entered the land of misery.
Sorry, that would be Missouri.
Rolling hills that went on for days. Pouring rain and fierce storms. And as much as it sucked, we had a lot of fun. Some of my favorite days were those we got soaked by the rain, banded together, and laughed and smiled all the way into camp.
After the foothills of the Ozarks, we entered into the Great Plains of Kansas and Eastern Colorado. It was here that we had some of our longest days and I discovered that I could, in fact, ride fast and I didn’t mind riding solo at times.
And I realized that barrel rolling on the bike is a bad idea.
We celebrated the fourth of July in a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere and boosted their population as we invaded their little park. We even had fireworks. And hotdogs and hamburgers. And we may or may not have created a bonfire in the tiny little grill that was there.
And before we knew it, we were over halfway across the country and charging up another set of mountains. We hit the Rockies at full speed and quickly realized that these mountains were a different kind of beast.
Instead of the extremely steep climbs we faced in the East, these were slow climbs that went on for miles and miles and miles. But for each climb, we had amazing views and those headlong flights down the other side where we raced ourselves and tucked in to try to go as fast as possible.
And as much as people warned us about the Rockies of Colorado, nobody mentioned the hardest state of the entire route: Utah.
Utah was also one of the most beautiful places to ride. From the hell that was Hite Recreation Area (no shade and one of the hottest places on our trip) to the canyons and buttes that created some brutal headwinds, it was a challenge both physically and mentally. But then we also got to ride through amazing places like the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Dixie National Forest, and past Bryce Canyon National Park.
It was there riding through the canyons that I felt the closest to creation. There were times when all I could think was: “How can you experience this and not feel close to the Creator?”
And as much as Utah sucked at times, Nevada was the worst, personally. It was long climbs and you could see forever as you came down into the valley and could see the next climb out in the distance, sometimes up to ten or more miles away.
And then I decided it would be a good idea to injure my knee. So, I jumped into the van for half a day so I didn’t damage it more.
And before we knew it, we were climbing all day up into the Cascades and into California. A full day of slow climbs led to a full day of twisting and turning downhills.
To be honest, the entire trip is a blur. It doesn’t feel like it was just a couple weeks ago, it feels like a lifetime ago. I met some amazing people who quickly became friends, and by the end of the journey, were as close as family.
When we made it to the shores of Crissy Field, beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA, so many emotions went through my head.
Exhaustion. Physical and spiritual exhaustion from biking 62 days and experiencing creation in every moment and pedal.
Joy. Raw, unfiltered happiness. My mother and grandmother were there, alongside my sister who I rode in honor of.
Sorrow. As much as parts of the journey sucked, it was coming to an end. I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to say goodbye to the amazing family that had developed.
Not only did we dip our tires into the cold waters, we dove in headfirst. We laughed. We cried. We hugged and said our goodbyes. And we embraced true friendships that time will never be able to take away from us.
The ride was more than a journey across the country to support an amazing organization. It was more than something I did in honor of my sister, who has been living with Multiple Sclerosis for the past eight years. It was more than a way to challenge myself, to test my own abilities and determination.
This adventure became a personal journey of experiencing every moment in a way that allowed me to grow stronger in my relationship with our Father above. To find the hands of the Creator in every glimpse and expanse.
And would I do it again? Yes. Yes, I think I will. Eventually.