The thing is, when you decide to bike across the country, you can’t overthink it or you’ll never do it. And if you research too much, instead of being more prepared, you’ll probably be scared off by the well known challenges that you’re sure to face. But preparation is key to keeping some semblance of order and direction, and prepare we did. Or so we thought.
For over a year, the cyclists prepared their bodies, building up their miles, tweaking their diets, and cycling together when they could. The pit crew planned meals, a schedule, and a skeleton of daily jobs and roles to divide the many tasks at hand. And Santhosh and his team of Julian Valencia, Daniel Severino, Arul Paulus-Rosenow studied maps, bike routes, and Google maps and researched with good friend, Jack Crabtree (the guy crazy enough to bike across the country twice) and Bicycle Bill, Bayville resident and the guy with half a million miles under his biking belt.
Preparing and praying, shopping and packing, dreaming and collaborating all made for a good start. But the challenges that lay ahead were so painfully hard at times, I’m sure each of the teammates contemplated quitting at some point. The problem is that when you’re in the middle of a very long uphill, quitting would only lead to rolling backwards, falling off your bike, or getting off and walking it. The hill doesn’t disappear or become any less steep. And unless the support vehicle happened to be within a few miles of you, and there’s a safe place to pull over and wait, it only made sense to keep on pedaling.
On the other side of the equation, if the pit crew didn’t feel like waking up at 4:00AM to make the cyclists breakfast, prepare their snacks, fill water bottles, and send the team off with some cheers, the heat of the day still showed up and the miles didn’t get any shorter. What surprised me the most was how no two days were alike. Sure, the skeleton of our days looked like: wake up, eat, bike, drink, bike more, eat, bike some more, eat, shower, sleep, repeat. But no two rides were alike. The terrain, the weather, the roads or trails, and the elements changed daily.
We went from the steep inclines and 100 degree temps of Washington State to the rolling hills and mosquitoes of Montana, to the miles of fields and relentless winds of Minnesota to the greens and bison of North Dakota. Then there were the tornadoes in Wisconsin, the tree-covered trails next to the Lehigh River in Pennsylvania after the broken roads and humidity of Ohio back to the winding elevations of the Appalachians. And home to the traffic and crowds of New York City. Not to mention the bees, mud, locusts, torrential rains, gravel, and one two-mile stretch through a tunnel in the dark. There were also falls and scrapes, pulling the RV out of mud after hours of digging and the help of two pick-up trucks, and one visit to the ER for a few stitches.
But I confess, as difficult as all the aforementioned obstacles were, nothing posed more strain or stress than the daily challenge of relationships and finding the balance between leading a team and collaborating on how to work together to reach the end goal. Absolutely, hubby and I made our share of mistakes, and I joked with Jack when we returned to sign us up for marriage counseling. Because the truth is, no matter how exciting or amazing the accomplishment of bringing a cycling team across the country safely and successfully and raising a decent amount of funds to help end Human Trafficking might appear at the finish line—only each of us who weathered every mile and moment know the combination of victories and failures, joys and pains, and laughter and tears that we experienced along the way.
Without going into details, I look back on this summer and know that when we do this again. Yes, that word reads WHEN. Not IF. Because I hope we will do it again. But, when we dust off the bikes and plan the next ride, I know we will do a few things differently. And I also know that, similar to parenting your second newborn, we will be wiser and not consumed so much with the unknowns but rather focus more on how to overcome the challenges we know we will inevitably face. Because in the end, it was never about us. If that were the case, each of us had a list of reasons to quit the team before mile one: job, family, and health to name a few.
Cycling for Change began with the goal to cycle to break the cycle of human trafficking. And until every little girl and young woman awaiting rescue, healing and opportunity receives hope, we pedal on. Yes, we pedal on. Because Hope. Changes everything.
A NOTE or Two: Since I wrote this post, our coach Bicycle Bill sadly passed away. We will always remember him for his ardent passion for safety, his gentle reminders to train hard and often, and his ever present love for cycling. He taught us so much and we will miss him. Rest in Peace Bill.
In the coming month, Cycling for Change will hold our first Gala at the Crescent Beach Club on the evening of Wednesday, October 21 to share photos. videos, and stories of the summer's cross country ride. The venue is aptly located in Bayville - where Bicycle Bill lived most of his life. We hope many of you will join us for a Sunset Gala to hear from President of Nomi Network's own Diana Mao, hear from the team, and enjoy an evening of food and music. Details to follow but for now, please Save The Date.